Darqueze Dennard is the Big Ten's biggest winner. Individually, at least.
One of Michigan State's top defenders, Dennard, a cornerback, was one of a small number of Big Ten players up for college football's most prestigious national awards handed out at Thursday night's "College Football Awards Show," and he walked away with the Jim Thorpe Award, which recognizes the country's best defensive back. He beat out fellow finalists Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner. Dennard was also named as a member of the Walter Camp All-America Team on Thursday, the lone Big Ten player on the First Team.
Earlier in the month, Dennard was named the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, and he finished his season with four interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles. He was also named to both the coaches and media All-Big Ten First Teams.
Dennard was one of the most important players on a defense that finished the best in the country.
After last weekend's win in the Big Ten Championship Game, Dennard and the Spartans will play in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day for the first time since 1988.
Dennard is the first Spartan to win the Thorpe Award and the sixth Big Ten player to win the award since its inception in 1986. He's the second to win since the end of a four-year winning streak for the conference in 2000 and joins Charles Woodson (Michigan, 1997), Antoine Winfield (Ohio State, 1998), Tyrone Carter (Minnesota, 1999), Jamar Fletcher (Wisconsin, 2000) and Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State, 2008).
The only other Big Ten player up for one of the awards presented Thursday was Purdue punter Cody Webster, who lost out on the Ray Guy Award to Memphis' Tom Hornsey.