Three Longhorns named to Lombardi Award watch list

On3 imageby:Justin Wells08/15/23

Texas senior linebacker Jaylan Ford, junior tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders and sophomore offensive lineman Kelvin Banks Jr. have been named to the Lombardi Award watch list, the Rotary Club of Houston announced on Monday. The Lombardi Award is presented annually to the college football offensive or defensive lineman, who in addition to outstanding performance and ability, best exemplifies the character and discipline of NFL Hall of Fame Head Coach Vince Lombardi.

Ford is a fourth-year linebacker who has played in 35 games with 15 starts. The Frisco, Texas native had a breakout season in 2022, earning AP All-American accolades after leading the Longhorns with a career-high 119 tackles (61 solo), three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions. He also logged 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, two quarterback hurries and two pass breakups. His four interceptions tied the single-season interception record for a Texas linebacker. All four of his takeaways led to Texas touchdowns, while his two fumble recoveries helped clinch victories over Kansas State and Iowa State last fall.

Ford, the former three-star, was 2022 first-team All-Big 12 selection by both the Big 12 Conference and the Associated Press and named the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Defensive Player of the Year. Ford is the first Longhorn to earn the conference’s preseason defensive player of the year accolade since Malik Jefferson was selected before the 2016 season.

Sanders, Denton (Texas) Ryan product appeared in all 25 games with 13 starts heading into his third year in Austin. The former five-star athlete and current starting tight end earned first-team all-conference accolades last season from the league’s coaches and the Associated Press after hauling in 54 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns, leading Big 12 tight ends in receptions and receiving yards and ranking second in touchdowns. Sanders was also a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award, his 54 receptions last season were the most for a tight end in a year in program history, and the 613 receiving yards tied for second-most in a season by a Longhorn tight end.

Banks, the Humble (Texas) Summer Creek native, played in and started all 13 games at left tackle as a true freshman in 2022, earning Freshman All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). Banks anchored an offensive line that helped Texas average 34.5 points per game, the 17th-highest scoring average among Power 5 programs, and 429.5 yards per game, the 23rd-best mark among Power 5 teams.

Banks was also tabbed Freshman All-American by The Athletic and chosen to ESPN’s True Freshman All-America team. A semifinalist for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award he also earned second-team All-Big 12 honors from both the league’s coaches and the Associated Press.

Three Longhorns have won the Lombardi Award; Brian Orakpo in 2008, Tony Degrate in 1984, and Kenneth Sims after the 1981 season. Nine other Longhorns have been finalists for the award, including Justin Blalock (2006), Rodrique Wright (2005), Derrick Johnson (2004), Cory Redding (2002), Doug Dawson (1983), Steve McMichael (1979), Brad Shearer (1977), Bill Wyman (1973) and Jerry Sisemore (1972).

For consideration for the Lombardi Award, players must be a NCAA FBS College Football team member and meet the following qualifications:

  • Be a down Lineman, end to end, either on offense or defense, setting up no further than ten (10) yards to the left or right of the ball at the time of the snap.
  • Be a Linebacker on defense, setting up no further than five (5) yards deep from the line of scrimmage.
  • Must not come out of the offensive backfield and set up on the line of scrimmage as a Blocker or a Receiver or listed in the program as an Offensive Back or Receiver.
  • Be eligible to participate in the current season.

Semifinalists for the Lombardi Award will be announced on November 1, 2023, while the four finalists for the award will be revealed on November 15, 2023. The winner will be announced at the 46th Rotary Lombardi Award dinner, which will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.

Vince Lombardi has been the namesake of the Lombardi Award since 1970. Over those past five decades, his name has been associated with a premier college football award, a landmark event in Houston, and a generous contributor to cancer hospitals and patient care. Now, under the direction of the Lombardi Foundation, Lombardi Honors is presenting the most significant tribute in college football, growing the event, while continuing to create awareness and funding for cancer initiatives.

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