Louisiana’s collegiate football players continue to pile up mentions on national preseason awards watch lists, with five state players among the 90 nationwide named to the Maxwell Award Watch List for 2020 on Friday after several others were named to various lists over the past two weeks.
The award has been given out annually since 1937 to the nation’s best overall player and is named after Robert W. (Tiny) Maxwell, a former standout player at Swarthmore College and renowned official and sports columnist. The award is voted on by head coaches, Maxwell Football Club members and media representatives. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow won the award in 2019.
LSU standout cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and 2019 Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver Ja’Marr Chase were named to the Maxwell Award Watch List Friday, as were Louisiana Tech running back Justin Henderson and ULM running back Josh Johnson. UL Lafayette quarterback Levi Lewis also was named to the list (see related story).
Henderson, a redshirt senior, also was named to the Doak Walker Watch List and is a First Team Preseason All-Conference USA selection by Phil Steele magazine and Athlon Sports.
Henderson is one of one of five players from Conference USA on the Maxwell list. He is the first Bulldog since Kenneth Dixon in 2015 to make the watch list.
He earned Second Team All-Conference USA honors after leading the ‘Dogs on the ground with 188 carries for 1,062 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2019, becoming became the 13th player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. The 15 rushing touchdowns led C-USA and tied for the seventh most in a single season in school history.
The Lake Wales, Florida native also had 20 receptions for 200 yards, helping amass a team-high 1,278 all-purpose yards.
In the last game of the season, he carried the ball a career-high 22 times for 95 yards to help LA Tech shutout Miami (Fla.) 14-0 in the Walk On’s Independence Bowl for the program’s sixth straight bowl victory and was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player for the bowl.
Johnson, a fifth-year senior, ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference and 13th in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing while averaging 108.2 yards per game last season.
Last week, Johnson was listed among the top preseason candidates for the Doak Walker Award, presented to the nation’s top running back by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum.
An All-Sun Belt Second-Team selection, Johnson also finished among the NCAA FBS Top 20 in yards per carry (10th at 6.46) and rushing yards (tied for 18th with 1,298). His 1,298 rushing yards ranked as the fourth-highest single-season total in ULM history. In addition, Johnson led the Warhawks in all-purpose yards (1,420) while ranking second in rushing touchdowns (11) and scoring (66 points). His eight runs of 30-plus yards ranked tied for eighth in the NCAA FBS. He also had 13 receptions for 122 yards (9.4 avg.).
“Josh Johnson is a complete football player,” ULM head coach Matt Viator said in a statement. “Josh can run with power between the tackles, plus with his breakaway speed, he’s a threat to take the ball to the end zone every time he touches the football. He also catches the ball well out of the backfield, and he’s a solid blocker in pass protection. In addition, Josh has a tremendous work ethic, and he’s an unbelievable competitor.”
Johnson was stopped for a loss only nine times in 201 rushing attempts in 2019. He opened last season with 69 consecutive carries without being tackled in the backfield.
He recorded his seventh 100-yard game in the season finale at UL Lafayette, finishing with 13 carries for 109 yards. His career-long 53-yard run set up ULM’s fourth touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Johnson ran 19 times for 129 yards and two TDs in ULM’s 45-42 win over Coastal Carolina in the home finale. He broke five runs of 10-plus yards, including a pair of 12-yard TDs.
With 20 rushes for 168 yards and two touchdowns in ULM’s 45-31 win over Georgia State, Johnson became ULM’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Frank Goodin (219 rushes for 1,126 yards and 13 TDs) in 2009. His two rushing TDs matched his career high, scoring on runs of 10 and 30 yards against the Panthers. His 36-yard gain around right end late in the first quarter set up ULM’s second touchdown.
A native of Hurtsboro, Alabama, Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from ULM in May 2020. This fall, he will be enrolled in the criminal justice graduate program.
Paul Hornung Award
Stingley and Tulane running back Amare Jones also were among 50 players from across the country named to the 2020 Paul Hornung Award Watch List, the Louisville Sports Commission announced on Thursday.
The Paul Hornung Award, now in its 11th season, is given annually to the most versatile player in major college football by the Louisville Sports Commission and football legend and Louisville native Paul Hornung. The winner and his family will be honored at the annual Paul Hornung Award dinner at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville on March 2021.
The 2020 Watch List is comprised of 50 players — 18 seniors, 22 juniors, nine sophomores and one grad transfer who play a total of eight different positions. These players represent 50 universities located in 28 states coast-to-coast that are part of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. All 10 FBS conferences and one independent school are represented on the Watch List; the SEC leads the conferences with eight players, followed by ACC with seven players and the Pac-12 and MWC with six players each.
Former LSU great Odell Beckham Jr. won the Hornung Award in 2013, one of six winners in the award’s 10 years who went on to be first-round NFL draft picks.
For the first time in the Award’s history, the Watch List includes a previous winner and two former finalists. Purdue’s Rondale Moore won the Award as a freshman in 2018. Wan’Dale Robinson (Nebraska) was a finalist last year, and Conner Heyward (Michigan State) was a finalist in 2018. Moore is the second player to try to win the Award twice, along with Christian McCaffrey, who won as a sophomore in 2015 but was edged out by Jabrill Peppers of Michigan in 2016.
Now a sophomore, Stingley established himself as the top rookie defender in college football in 2019, leading the Southeastern Conference in both interceptions (6) and passes defended (21). He was a consensus All-America selection and played a vital role in LSU having the most dominant season in college football history, going 15-0 and capturing the national title with a win over Clemson in the CFP National Championship Game.
In addition to his defensive prowess, Stingley also serves as LSU’s punt returner. Last year, Stingley returned 17 punts for 163 yards, an average of 9.3 yards a return.
Jones, a junior, was earlier named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List. He also was named to the American Athletic Conference preseason all-league teams by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele Publications.
The Frisco, Texas, native was selected to the watch list following an impressive sophomore campaign where he closed the year with 1,611 all-purpose yards, finishing with 371 yards rushing, 367 yards receiving, 141 punt return yards and 732 kickoff return yards.
Jones’ 1,611 all-purpose yards were the most by any American Athletic Conference sophomore, ranked 28th nationally and fifth in the league. His all-purpose yards total also served as the seventh-highest single-season total in program history.
In 2019, players on the Watch List acc–ounted for 44,223 total yards, including 10,719 rushing yards, 17,850 receiving yards, 11,889 kickoff return yards and 3,658 punt return yards. A total of six players who made the list play defense and accounted for 292 total tackles, 15 interceptions and 45 PBUs. Reminiscent of Hornung during his playing days, members of the Watch List demonstrated a knack for scoring numerous ways. Last season the Watch List players combined for 239 total touchdowns in six different ways — rushing, receiving, passing, and returning punts, kickoffs and interceptions.
“We created this award as a way to reward college players who selflessly take on the burden of playing multiple positions, and excel at a high level the way Paul Hornung did for Notre Dame and the Green Bay Packers,” said Karl Schmitt, president and CEO of the Louisville Sports Commission, owners and operators of the Award. “In addition, we wanted to introduce young players to the legacy of Hornung, who said he would do anything his coach asked of him to help his team win games.”
Hornung, who still lives in his hometown of Louisville, played every position in the offensive backfield during his career with the Irish in the 1950s and also played defensive safety, punted, placekicked and returned kickoffs. He was named All-America at quarterback as a senior and won the Heisman Trophy in 1956, then was the first player selected in the NFL draft, going to Green Bay. He earned NFL MVP honors for the Packers in 1961 as a triple-threat halfback and placekicker by setting a single-season NFL scoring record that stood for 46 years. He is a member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and Vince Lombardi once called him, “The most versatile man ever to play the game.”