DALLAS (FWAA) Cornerback Steven Jones Jr. lent a scoring hand from the defensive side of the ball Saturday, returning two of his three interceptions for touchdowns to boost App State's runaway 48-14 win at Arkansas State. For the two scoring returns and the interceptions that catapulted him into a tie for the national lead, Jones earned the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Nov. 6, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.
This is the second time for an App State player to earn this weekly honor and first since 2019 when current super senior defensive end Demetrius Taylor won it following an upset win Sept. 19 at North Carolina. Jones will be added to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list.
The 5-10, 180-pound senior from Rockingham, N.C., scored on returns of 47 and 34 yards, sandwiched around a leaping interception at the goal line that gave the first-year starter three pick-six touchdowns and four total interceptions over the last two games. He's the first Mountaineer to score on a pair of interceptions since 1983, and now has five picks this season in only his 10th start at cornerback. He is tied with South Carolina safety Jaylan Foster the national lead. The two touchdown returns against Arkansas State and four career scores both tie Sun Belt Conference records.
"I was just focused on doing my job staying on top, looking at the formations," Jones said. "From watching film, I knew a couple plays and I just capitalized."
Constant pressure from the front seven App State had four sacks and 11 tackles for loss against Arkansas State · played a role in the dominant defensive effort. A block from Taylor, App State's previous Bronko Nagurski weekly winner, paved the way for Jones to reach the end zone on his touchdown that resulted in a 14-0 lead.
Jones ended the first half of last week's home win against ULM with a 14-yard return for a score. No FBS player has had three pick-six scores in a shorter span than Jones since Houston's Johnny Jackson set an NCAA record by scoring three times on interception returns in a 1987 game against Texas. Jones tied four other defenders for App State's single-game interception record and matched three other Mountaineer alums for the pick-six touchdown record in a single game.
The three interception returns for touchdowns in one season and four in a career are school records for Jones, who also scored on a 34-yard return against Troy last season and actually has five career touchdowns thanks to an end-zone recovery of a punt he blocked against Gardner-Webb in 2018.
The Mountaineers host South Alabama at 2:30 pm ET Saturday on ESPN-Plus.
Each Tuesday during the regular season, the FWAA has selected a Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week since 2001. The FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club will announce three finalists for the 2021 Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Nov. 17. The national defensive player of the year will be chosen from those finalists who are part of the 2021 FWAA All-America Team and presented with the trophy at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet presented by LendingTree on Dec. 6 at the Charlotte Convention Center
The FWAA has chosen a National Defensive Player of the Year since 1993. In 1995, the FWAA named the award in honor of the legendary two-way player from the University of Minnesota. Nagurski dominated college football then became a star for professional football's Chicago Bears in the 1930s. Bronislaw "Bronko" Nagurski is a charter member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Charlotte Touchdown Club
The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C., region. The club's activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding citizenship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area athletes and coaches. Since 1990, the club has raised and donated nearly $3 million to benefit area high school and collegiate athletics. For more information, contact John Rocco (704-347-2918 or email@example.com). The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is touchdownclub.com.
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2021 Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Players of the Week
Weekend of Sept. 4: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Weekend of Sept. 11: Verone McKinley III, S, Oregon
Weekend of Sept. 18: Jared Bartlett, DE, West Virginia
Weekend of Sept. 25: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Weekend of Oct. 2: Khoury Bethley, S, Hawaii
Weekend of Oct. 9: Matt Hankins, CB, Iowa
Weekend of Oct. 16: Will Anderson Jr., LB, Alabama
Weekend of Oct. 23: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE/LB, Oregon
Weekend of Oct. 30: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, DE, Kansas State
Weekend of Nov. 6: Steven Jones Jr., CB, App State
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (All-Time Winners, Finalists and Players of the Week)
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