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Rob Weintraub's Pac-12 Alumni Trophies

Rob Weintraub's Pac-12 Alumni Trophies
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Welcome to the seventh (!) edition of my annual Alumni Awards -- choosing the season's best NFL player from each of the Power Five college programs. It's a great way to gauge the health of the collegiate teams, an indicator of the volatility of the pro game, and, most of all, a fun argument starter.

Here are the 2018 Alumni Award winners! Today we will cover the Pac-12.


ARIZONA (8 total pros on rosters in 2018 per ESPN.com)

2012: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
2013: Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia
2014: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
2015: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
2016: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
2017: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
2018: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England

A come-from-behind win is Gronk's fifth Wildcat in a row, and sixth in seven seasons. Will it be his last? His regular season play seemed to indicate a last hurrah, but his sterling playoff performance boosted his morale and pushed him past Foles, Philly's Miracle Man, who couldn't quite repeat last year's magic. (It should be noted that the 2017 award was handed out BEFORE Super Bowl LII, or Foles' excellence on the big stage would have been rewarded with an Alumni Award.) Of course, if Dee Ford hadn't lined up offsides, Gronk is the AFC title game goat, in addition to being the Arizona Alum GOAT, and perhaps Foles pips New England's noble savage at the wire.


2012: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati
2013: Terrell Suggs, DE, Baltimore
2014: Terrell Suggs, DE, Baltimore
2015: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati
2016: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati
2017: Terrell Suggs, DE, Baltimore
2018: Terrell Suggs, DE, Baltimore

Lawrence Guy had a solid season on the Pats front line, and Damarious Randall played well in the Browns secondary. But none could match the sizzle of T-Sizzle's campaign, remarkable for a 36-year-old. Suggs is now one-up for Devil Horns on Burfict, a not-bloody-likely prospect just two seasons ago.


2012: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
2013: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle
2014: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
2015: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
2016: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
2017: Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans
2018: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams

A Berkeley passer other than Aaron Rodgers winning the Golden Bear? Well, when you go to the Super Bowl, this is your reward. As usual, competition out of Cal was as fierce as it is underrated. Mitchell Schwartz was tremendous all season in K.C., while Keenan Allen, Cameron Jordan, and Alex Mack were also worthy. Heck, even C.J. Anderson made a late run at the trophy. If only the results in Strawberry Canyon matched the quality of the pro alumni.


2012: Nate Solder, T, New England
2013: Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay
2014: Nate Solder, T, New England
2015: David Bakhtiari, T, Green Bay
2016: David Bakhtiari, T, Green Bay
2017: David Bakhtiari, T, Green Bay
2018: David Bakhtiari, T, Green Bay

Bakh-to-Bakh-to-Bakh-to-Bakh Buffaloes for Bakhtiari.


2012: Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo
2013: Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore
2014: Max Unger, C, Seattle
2015: Max Unger, C, New Orleans
2016: Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee
2017: Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee
2018: Max Unger, C, New Orleans

Mariota's mediocrity actually put him third behind Unger and Niners d-lineman DeForest Buckner.


2012: Brandon Browner, CB, Seattle
2013: Keenan Lewis, CB, New Orleans
2014: Keenan Lewis, CB, New Orleans
2015: Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans
2016: Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans
2017: Johnny Hekker, P, Los Angeles Rams
2018: Steven Nelson, CB, Kansas City

Nelson improved mightily to wrest the Beaver from Hekker, who was only the third-best punter in his division this year by FO metrics.


2012: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis
2013: Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle
2014: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis
2015: Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle
2016: Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle
2017: David DeCastro, G, Pittsburgh
2018: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis

Luck's re-emergence as an elite passer also buoyed the competition for the Cardinal Trophy, which is always a good battle. In addition to the prior winners, Christian McCaffrey made his first concerted push for the award, while Zach Ertz was sniffing around it as well. But unless Luck re-injures his throwing wing, the Redbird will be his for the foreseeable future.

UCLA (32)

2012: Akeem Ayers, LB, Tennessee
2013: Datone Jones, DE, Green Bay
2014: Anthony Barr, LB, Minnesota
2015: Anthony Barr, LB, Minnesota
2016: Eric Kendricks, LB, Minnesota
2017: Anthony Barr, LB, Minnesota
2018: Myles Jack, LB, Jacksonville

Linebacker U West figures to have a quarterback challenge the positional hegemony for the Bruin for the first time quite soon, one by the name of Josh Rosen. But not this year.

USC (46)

2012: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay
2013: Ryan Kalil, C, Carolina
2014: Tyron Smith, T, Dallas
2015: Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona
2016: Tyron Smith, T, Dallas
2017: Everson Griffen, DE, Minnesota
2018: Jurrell Casey, DT, Tennessee

Griffen's unfortunate mental issues opened the door, but no Man of Troy stepped through with a dominant season, despite the unusually high number of them across the league. Casey edges JuJu Smith-Schuster in an extremely tight race.

UTAH (21)

2012: Paul Kruger, LB, Baltimore
2013: Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City
2014: Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina
2015: Eric Weddle, S, San Diego
2016: Eric Weddle, S, Baltimore
2017: Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City
2018: Eric Weddle, S, Baltimore

Smith's busted leg allows Weddle to snag his third Ute award in four seasons, and with Weddle's likely retirement, his last.


2012: Dashon Goldson, S, San Francisco
2013: Mason Foster, LB, Tampa Bay
2014: Desmond Trufant, CB, Atlanta
2015: Desmond Trufant, CB, Atlanta
2016: Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City
2017: Budda Baker, S, Arizona
2018: Cory Littleton, LB, Los Angeles Rams

File under "No one knows anything": there are six former first-round picks from U-Dub kicking around the NFL, and five more second-rounders. But it is the undrafted Littleton who had the best season, and thus gets to lord the furry, white Husky Trophy over his more lauded fellow alumni.


2012: Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis
2013: Rian Lindell, K, Tampa Bay
2014: Deone Bucannon, S, Arizona
2015: Deone Bucannon, LB, Arizona
2016: Deone Bucannon, LB, Arizona
2017: Deone Bucannon, LB, Arizona
2018: Deone Bucannon, LB, Arizona

Here are some of the names of NFL Cougars: Shalom Luani, Frankie Luvu, Destiny Vaeao, River Cracraft, and of course Hercules Mata'afa. Sadly, none of them made even a negligible impact, so although Bucannon was mediocre enough to merit trade talks, he takes the Palouse Prize for the fifth straight year.


5 comments, Last at 15 Feb 2019, 11:30am

4 Re: Rob Weintraub's Pac-12 Alumni Trophies

Should the trophy just be the color? Maybe a can of paint with cardinal red trickling down the sides? That would be kind of neat.

Or it could be a bird of that color, who also is dressed in religious garments, while signifying the number of elements of a set somehow. With a name tag saying "Sin".

Have I missed any of the meanings of "cardinal" here?