College football’s 2019 kickoff is a little more than a month away, which means it’s officially watch list season.
The Maxwell Football Club, founded by former NFL commissioner Bert Bell in 1935, is in charge of several of college football’s greatest distinctions — the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards.
Since 1937, the Maxwell Award has been handed to the best all-around player in college football and voted on by a committee of media members, head coaches, and club members. The honor is primarily awarded to the nation’s best quarterback or running back, as only Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o (2012) and Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard (1991) have won the Maxwell from non-QB/RB positions since 1981.
Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke, Western Michigan running back LeVante Bellamy, and Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson were three of 80 players selected to the Maxwell Award Watch List.
Rourke, a senior dual threat quarterback from Ontario, has guided Ohio to back-to-back 9-win seasons as a star passer and runner. Highly effective in speed option scenarios, Rourke has rushed for 36 touchdowns and 1,767 yards in his two years as a starter. Last season, he threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns, completing passes at a 59.9% mark. Rourke is a two-time Second Team All-MAC selection and the only quarterback in the conference to achieve All-MAC honors.
Bellamy is a senior running back who has been an integral part of Western Michigan’s roster since 2015. Injuries plagued the beginning of his college career but he was finally able to see 13 games of action in 2018 for the first time in three seasons. With that availability on the field, he was a lethal runner with 1,228 rushing yards and six touchdowns. The quick back is renowned for his breakaway runs, and he carries an impressive career average of 6.4 yards per carry.
Patterson is entering his sophomore season after a breakout campaign to win 2018 MAC Freshman of the Year. After starting his true freshman season as a reserve, Patterson climbed to the top of the depth chart after a 104-yard, 2-touchdown outing in a blowout win over Rutgers. The Maryland native continued to build on that performance by rushing for 90+ yards in five-straight weeks. Patterson finished the season with 1,013 yards and 14 touchdowns and is the most crucial returning piece to Buffalo’s offense in 2019.
Former Ball State running back James Gilbert appears on the list too. After four seasons with the Cardinals, which included a 1,332-yard campaign in 2016, Gilbert transferred to Kansas State as a graduate student.
The Bednarik Award, established in 1995, is bestowed upon college football’s defensive player of the year. Compared to the Maxwell Award, the Bednarik is more diverse in its recipients, as the last three winners have played different positions — outside linebacker, free safety, and defensive end.
Three MAC players are on the watch list for the award named after the former Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame linebacker, Chuck Bednarik. Miami (OH) defensive tackle Doug Costin, Northern Illinois outside linebacker Antonio Jones-Davis, and Eastern Michigan cornerback Kevin McGill are all recognized this preseason as potential candidates for the defensive player of the year.
Costin anchors the defensive line in Oxford as a 6’2”, 295-pound senior defensive tackle. He led all RedHawks in sacks in 2018 with six and produced 9.5 tackles for loss. Costin disrupts the passing game as well, batting down nine passes in the past two seasons — earning him a spot on the All-MAC Second Team last year.
Jones-Davis is a crucial part of a Northern Illinois defense which ranked third in opponent rushing average in consecutive seasons. The senior linebacker compiled 130 tackles last year and impressively recorded 14.5 of those hits in the backfield. Jones-Davis defended six passes and managed four sacks in 2018, making his mark as an all-around star for the Huskies’ stout defense.
McGill enters his senior year at Eastern Michigan, and he’s been a part of a memorable Eagles run which has included the program’s only two bowl appearances since 1987. McGill is a ballhawk in the secondary, ranking second in the conference with three interceptions as a junior and obtaining Second Team All-MAC honors. McGill defended 14 passes in his past two seasons and guided Eastern Michigan to fifth in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game in 2018.
No MAC player has been given either the Maxwell or Bednarik Award before, but earning a spot on this watch list is a strong start. The six stars return to action the weekend of August 29-31, hoping to become one step closer to the hardware.