LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (FWAA) – Wisconsin offensive
tackle Joe Thomas became the first Badger to win the Outland Trophy on Thursday night during the
ESPN College Football Awards show from the Atlantic Dance Hall
on Disney's Boardwalk.
winning the 61st Outland Trophy, he received a nice
present three days after he turned 22 on Monday. Two days later,
on Wednesday night, he was engaged to Annie Nelson, a former
Wisconsin basketball player.
"I was very excited (to win)," Thomas said. "A lot of emotion
goes through your mind. It kind of hits you all at once. You
kind of forget things for a couple of minutes. You're walking on
Cloud 9. All three of us (finalists) had a great shot of
winning. All three of us were very deserving."
Thomas, a 6-8, 306-pound senior from Brookfield, Wis., became
the third Big Ten Conference player in four years to win Outland
Trophy, which goes to the top interior lineman in college
football. Iowa offensive tackle Robert Gallery won the Outland
in 2003 and Minnesota center Greg Eslinger captured it in 2005.
In all, 13 players from current Big Ten schools have won the
Thomas, projected as one of the top picks in the 2007
NFL Draft, was the mainstay of a Badger offensive line, which
paved the way for freshman running back P.J. Hill. The Badgers'
offense was 21st in the country, scoring 30.3 points per game.
Thomas was a team captain and starter for 12 games after
overcoming ACL surgery last January. He suffered the injury
while filling in on a depleted defensive line in the Badgers'
bowl game against Auburn. "I was just trying to help my team
win," he said of the injury. "I was on crutches for a month. Two
more months I couldn't walk on it."
A former track athlete in the shot
put, he also plans to someday also pursue a career in real
estate. This season, he was also a finalist for the Draddy Trophy, the
National Football Foundation's academic award.
Wisconsin (11-1) lost only to Michigan this season and will
play Arkansas (10-3) in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1 when
Thomas will conclude his collegiate career.
The Outland is the third oldest award in major college football
behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. It is named after the
late John Outland, who created the award a year before his death. An All-American lineman at Pennsylvania at the turn of the
century, Dr. Outland created the award to recognize linemen. He
believed linemen needed more recognition. The first Outland Award was presented to the late George
Connor of Notre Dame in 1946.
The annual presentation banquet, which is sponsored by the
Greater Omaha Sports Committee., will be Jan. 11 in Omaha, Neb.,
when Thomas will be honored. Notre Dame's Bill Fischer, the 1948
winner, will also receive his Outland Trophy. Until the late
1980s, the FWAA awarded only a plaque to the winner.
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit
organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 900 men and
women across North America who cover college football for a living.
The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists,
as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game.
The FWAA works to govern areas that include gameday operations,
major awards, a national poll and its annual All-America team.
For more information on the Outland Trophy, go to the official
or contact FWAA executive director Steve Richardson (972-713-6198
||SEC, Sun Belt
||South Bend Tribune
||MAC, Notre Dame
||Des Moines Register
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