Dec. 6, 2002
Notre Dame, Ind. – Senior All-America cornerback Shane Walton was named Notre Dame’s 2002 MVP in football – and Walton joined three other seniors, strong safety Gerome Sapp, offensive guard Sean Mahan and wide receiver Arnaz Battle, as captains of the ’02 Irish squad.
Both the MVP honor (presented by the Notre Dame National Monogram Club) and the captains’ awards came by vote of the players. First-year Irish coach Tyrone Willingham opted not to elect team captains prior to the season, instead designated four captains for each individual game, then had his squad elect the official captains at season’s end.
These awards were among others presented Friday night at the 82nd Notre Dame Football Banquet at the Joyce Center on the University of Notre Dame campus. Former Irish captain and current ESPN personality Mike Golic served as guest speaker in front of a crowd of 1,300.
Walton, from San Diego, Calif., already has been named a first-team All-American on teams selected by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is one of five finalists for the FWAA Bronko Nagurski Defensive Player of the Year Award to be presented next week. Walton ranks sixth nationally in interceptions, with his seven pickoffs ranking as the most by an Irish player in 13 seasons. He tied the Irish single-game record with three interceptions in the ’02 season opener against Maryland. Walton is majoring in sociology, psychology and computer applications.
Sapp, from Houston, Texas, finished as Notre Dame’s fourth-leading tackler in 2002 with 65, to go with four interceptions, a 54-yard fumble return for a score versus Purdue and a team-high seven pass breakups. He had a career-high 10 tackles in the win at Air Force. Sapp is a finance major in the Mendoza College of Business.
Mahan won the Guardian of the Year Award from the Guardian Life Insurance Company as the top offensive lineman – in addition to being voted a ’02 captain. He was a two-year starter at guard for the Irish, starting all 12 games in ’02 at left guard. He helped pave the way for a 1,000-yard rusher in ’02 (Ryan Grant), the fifth-best single-season receiver at Notre Dame (Battle) and a quarterback (Carlyle Holiday) who threw a record 126 straight passes without an interception. From Tulsa, Okla., Mahan is a psychology and computer applications major who earned a 3.2 average last semester.
Battle, from Shreveport, La., finished the ’02 campaign with 48 catches for 702 yards and five touchdowns. His reception total ranks fifth on the Notre Dame single-season list. He had a career-high 10 receptions against Pittsburgh and a career-best 112 receiving yards against Air Force.
Battle also earned the Westwood One/State Farm Student-Athlete of the Year Award. He was one of 12 weekly winners announced during Westwood One national radio broadcasts of Irish games in 2002. Battle is a sociology and computer applications major who earned a 3.22 average last semester.
Other weekly winners in addition to Battle were Kyle Budinscak, Tom Lopienski, Pat Dillingham, Glenn Earl, Jeff Thompson, John Crowther, Tim O’Neill, Brandon Hoyte, Chad DeBolt, Corey Mays and Dan Stevenson.
Senior defensive end Ryan Roberts won the Lineman of the Year Award from the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. The Lawnside, N.J., product led all Irish defensive linemen in ’02 with 40 overall tackles, nine tackles for loss and a team-leading eight sacks. A three-year starter at end for the Irish, he played a key role in helping Notre Dame’s defense rank among the top 13 in all four major categories. He already has received his degree from the College of Science with a science/business combination.
Senior center Jeff Faine won the Nick Pietrosante Award — also voted on by the players — as the individual who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride shown by the late Irish All-America fullback. Pietrosante died of cancer on Feb. 6, 1988. From Sanford, Fla., Faine has started every game at center for the Irish over the last three seasons. He’s one of the finalists for the Dave Rimington Award as the top center in the country for 2002. Faine is a film, television and theatre major.
Crowther received the Knute Rockne Student-Athlete Award for the second straight year from the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley. He graduated with a 3.7 grade-point average as a finance and computer applications major in the Mendoza College of Business and is currently enrolled in the MBA program. The senior from Edina, Minn., served as the Irish special-team snapper in 2001 and ’02, this year earning his third monogram in that capacity. He earned second-team Verizon Academic All-America honors in 2002.