Ezekiel Elliott named winner of prestigious Sullivan Award

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Three months after their title-winning season came to an end, the honors continue to roll in for Ohio State football.

Sunday afternoon, running back Ezekiel Elliott was named as the winner of the AAU James E. Sullivan Award, one of the most prestigious honors in amateur sports.  Elliott was one of 16 semifinalists for the 85th edition of the award, with former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota serving as the only other college football player up for the honor.

Here is the description of the award from the award itself:

Known as the “Oscar” of sports awards, and older than The Heisman, the AAU Sullivan Award honors the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. It has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the Amateur Athletic Union, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan. Based on the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism, the AAU Sullivan Award goes far beyond athletic accomplishments and honors those who have shown strong moral character.

Elliott is the second consecutive college football player to win the award as Penn State’s John Urschel claimed last year’s trophy.  Elliott becomes the eighth college football player to claim the Sullivan, joining Urschel, joining 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)

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Other former winners include golfing great Bobby Jones (1930, first year of the award), track legend Wilma Rudolph (1960), swimmer Mark Spitz (1971), decathlete Bruce Jenner (1976) and swimmer Michael Phelps (2003).

UPDATED 4:54 p.m. ET: Below is a quote from Elliott sent out by OSU’s sports information department.

“First and foremost I’d like to thank the AAU Sullivan Award for representing the outstanding amateur athlete for the past 85 years, and secondly I want to congratulate all the finalists. I feel somewhat undeserving of this award with all these great athletes up here and all their tremendous accomplishments. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to win an Olympic gold medal so I want to congratulate all for being here.

“I’ve got to thank my parents for pushing me to being the person I am. They demand excellence out of me and that drove me to be the person I am today.

“I also want to thank Ohio State University for this and for all the opportunities it has presented me. And I want to thank my coaches and my teammates for making this opportunity possible. Football is a team sport and I’m nothing without my boys around me. Thank you!”

Coroner rules death of Georgia Southern’s Jordan Wiggins a suicide

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Another tragic layer has been added to an already unimaginably sad story.

Overnight, Georgia Southern confirmed that offensive lineman Jordan Wiggins had passed away, although no cause of death for the 18-year-old true freshman was given. In a subsequent press release, the university explained that “[o]n Monday evening, a family member called Georgia Southern Police to request a welfare check at Jordan Wiggins’ residence hall in Statesboro. Upon arrival, officers found Wiggins unresponsive. He was transported to East Georgia Regional Medical Center, where he later passed away.”

Early Tuesday afternoon, WTOC-TV reported that, “[a]ccording to the Bulloch County Coroner, Wiggins’ death has been ruled a suicide.”

Because of Wiggins’ death, the football program canceled practice that had been scheduled for Tuesday.  The university is also providing counseling for those impacted by Wiggins’ sudden passing.

“My heart is broken for Jordan, his family, our team and this university,” said head coach Chad Lunsford in a statement. “Jordan was a great Georgia Southern Man with a bright future. His time on Earth was short, but we know that there is a greater plan, and we must trust that. If he was indeed struggling with some personal issues, I wish the resources that we currently provide our students could have helped more. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone this is affecting.”

And, for those in the reading audience: The phone number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.  Please, pick up the phone and call that number if you ever get to the point where you feel like you just can’t go on.  Or call somebody, anybody.

Illinois loses WR Trevon Sidney to season-ending injury

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After a series of high-profile renegings by transfer wide receivers this offseason, Illinois was able to hold on to a commitment from ex-USC Trojan Trevon Sidney.  Unfortunately for both the player and the program, that first season in Champaign has turned out to be a truncated one.

During the loss to Minnesota in Week 6, Trevon Sidney went down with an unspecified lower-leg injury.  Sidney missed the next two games, including the huge Week 8 upset of then-No. 6 Wisconsin.

Three days later, Lovie Smith confirmed that Sidney will miss the remainder of the 2019 season.  According to the head coach, Smith recently underwent surgery to repair what is still an unspecified injury.

Despite missing a pair of games, Sidney is still third on the Fighting Illini in receptions with 16.  His 123 yards are also fourth on the team.

The good news, such as it is, is that Sidney has another season of eligibility he can use in 2020.

Jerry Jones: Urban Meyer’s comment on Cowboys job a ‘compliment’

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How ’bout them Cowboys?  Urban Meyer‘s answer to a somewhat similar question has kicked up a bit of a kerfuffle.

Meyer, less than a year into his second retirement from coaching and in the midst of being lauded for his work as a college football analyst, appeared on Colin Cowherd‘s radio show late last week.  During the course of the interview, the ex-Ohio State and Florida head coach was asked about the not-vacant-yet job with the Dallas Cowboys and if he would want it.

Sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. That one? Yes.

Fast-forward a couple of days and the Cowboys’ owner has responded to what many are considering a not-so-thinly-veiled overture on Meyer’s part.

Jason Garrett, the current Cowboys head coach, is in the final year of his contract, which has led to the RPMs on that section of the coaching rumor mill ratcheting up significantly.

In addition to the Cowboys, Meyer was connected to the not-yet-vacant job at USC perhaps nanoseconds after his retirement was official.  Yesterday, our own Zach Barnett put Meyer as Florida State’s top target if the Seminoles move on from the Willie Taggart experiment, which thus far has been an abject failure by any measure.

Of course, if any of the upper-echelon Power Five schools end up searching for a new coach, Meyer will be at the top of their list as well.  Whether Meyer is attainable is another matter entirely.

Miami WR Brian Hightower tweets move to transfer portal

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All of a sudden, there’s a bit of upheaval in Miami’s receiving corps.

Earlier today, we noted the long-running, ongoing drama that is the Jeff Thomas Experience at The U. Monday evening, Brian Hightower added to the collective positional brouhaha by announcing on Twitter that, “[a]fter careful consideration and discussion with my family, and THE University of Miami coaching staff, I am entering my name into the transfer portal to openly explore the best opportunities to utilize my remaining eligibility and pursue my education.”

A four-star member of Miami’s 2018 recruiting class, Hightower was rated as the No. 27 receiver in the country.  Mark Pope was the only receiver in The U’s class that year rated higher than Hightower.

Hightower played in 17 games during his time with the Hurricanes — 10 as a true freshman, all seven this season.  He totaled 148 yards and one touchdown on 12 receptions, with eight of those catches and 88 of the yards coming in 2019.