If college football is to stake its claim to the most prestigious award in amateur athletics for the fourth year in a row, it’ll do so coming from a very limited field.
Monday, a total of 16 semifinalists for the 2016 Sullivan Award were announced. Of those 16, just one was a current or former college football player — erstwhile Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson was also a semifinalist for the 2016 Sullivan Award that was shared by, along with UConn women’s basketball player Breanna Stewart, then-Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
The latter was the third of three straight college football players who have won the award.
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott was the 2015 winner of the Sullivan, while Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel claimed the 2014 honor. Six other college football players have earned an honor handed out annually since 1930: Felix “Doc” Blanchard (Army, 1945), Arnold Tucker (Army, 1946), Charlie Ward (Florida State, 1993), Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), Tim Tebow (Florida, 2007) and Andrew Rodriguez (Army, 2011) .
In addition to Watson, the other semifinalists for this year’s award are as follows: Aly Raisman (gymnastics), Ashleigh Johnson (water polo, Princeton), Brianna Turner (women’s basketball, Notre Dame), Ginny Thrasher (rifle, West Virginia), Helen Maroulis (wrestler, Simon Fraser), Jackie Galloway (taekwondo), Kayla Harrison (judo), Kyle Lewis (baseball, Mercer), Kyle Snyder (wrestler, Ohio State), Lauren Carlini (volleyball, Wisconsin), Laurie Hernandez (gymnastics), Lonzo Ball (UCLA basketball) , Malik Monk (Kentucky, basketball), Matt Centrowitz Jr (track, Oregon), Maverick McNealy (men’s golf, Stanford), Steele Johnson (diving, Purdue) and Vashti Cunningham (track).