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Rob Weintraub's Big Ten Alumni Trophies

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 Big Ten.

BIG TEN CONFERENCE

ILLINOIS (17 total pros on rosters in 2018 per ESPN.com)

2012: Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis
2013: Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB, Houston
2014: Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis
2015: Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB, Houston
2016: Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB, Houston
2017: Clayton Fejedelem, S, Cincinnati
2018: Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB, Houston

Fejedelem had another studly season on special teams and threw in a key fumble return touchdown to boot, but Mercilus mercilessly ripped the trophy from Clayton's grip.

INDIANA (11)

2012: Rodger Saffold, T, St. Louis
2013: Tracy Porter, CB, Oakland
2014: Rodger Saffold, G, St. Louis
2015: Tracy Porter, CB, Chicago
2016: Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago
2017: Rodger Saffold, G, Los Angeles Rams
2018: Rodger Saffold, G, Los Angeles Rams

The Battle of Los Angeles (guards) was won by Saffold, edging out Dan Feeney of the Chargers, mainly because Saffold played in the historic Coliseum while Feeney played out in East Jesus Nowhere. Zack de la Rocha handed the Hoosier Award to Saffold.

IOWA (24)

2012: Marshal Yanda, G, Baltimore
2013: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay
2014: Marshal Yanda, G, Baltimore
2015: Marshal Yanda, G, Baltimore
2016: Marshal Yanda, G, Baltimore
2017: Micah Hyde, S, Buffalo
2018: George Kittle, TE, San Francisco

Plenty of solid Iowans around the league, including Chargers cornerback and returner Desmond King, Rams guard Austin Blythe, and of course the great Yanda. Marshal might easily have stacked up another Hawkeye, but Kittle's record season by the Bay earns it.

MARYLAND (14)

2012: Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore
2013: D'Qwell Jackson, LB, Cleveland
2014: Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore
2015: Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota
2016: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville
2017: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville
2018: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville

Diggs' curiously poor season (he dropped to 64th in receiving DYAR) makes this an easy three-Terp for Yannick.

MICHIGAN (31)

2012: Tom Brady, QB, New England
2013: Tom Brady, QB, New England
2014: Tom Brady, QB, New England
2015: Tom Brady, QB, New England
2016: Tom Brady, QB, New England
2017: Tom Brady, QB, New England
2018: Tom Brady, QB, New England

In addition to his many other accomplishments, Tommy is the only player to win all of his school's Alumni Awards dating back to 2012. Brady tells me he's won enough Wolverine trophies, so he plans on giving this one to the runner-up finisher, as Malcolm Butler was so gifted with the Super Bowl MVP award in 2014. So congrats to Frank Clark of the Seahawks -- you're the beneficiary of Tommy Touchdown's largesse!

MICHIGAN STATE (19)

2012: Domata Peko, DT, Cincinnati
2013: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh
2014: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh
2015: Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
2016: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh
2017: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh
2018: Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota

Le'Veon Bell's sacrifice of 18 or so million dollars was nicely cushioned by his four alumni awards, but his absence opened the door for other candidates. Peko made a surprising run for his first Sparty since 2012, but in the end positional advantage leaned strongly to Captain Kirk.

MINNESOTA (7)

2012: Eric Decker, WR, Denver
2013: Eric Decker, WR, Denver
2014: Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets
2015: Eric Decker -- New York Jets
2016: De'Vondre Campbell, LB, Atlanta
2017: De'Vondre Campbell, LB, Atlanta
2018: De'Vondre Campbell, LB, Atlanta

Another year of little challenge for the Falcons' Gopher.

NEBRASKA (26)

2012: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit
2013: Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay
2014: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit
2015: Richie Incognito, G, Buffalo
2016: Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay
2017: Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay
2018: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Once again it came down to the two former Blackshirts, Suh and David, with Suh edging out the Bucs linebacker by the width of a corn husk, not to mention a Super Bowl trip.

NORTHWESTERN (12)

2012: Barry Cofield, DT, Washington
2013: Zach Strief, T, New Orleans
2014: Zach Strief, T, New Orleans
2015: Zach Strief, T, New Orleans
2016: Zach Strief, T, New Orleans
2017: Trevor Siemian, QB, Denver
2018: Anthony Walker, LB, Indianapolis

The less-heralded rookie linebacker in Indy, Walker was no Darius Leonard, but he had a strong season nonetheless. In comparison to the rest of the Wildcat alums, he wasn't merely Leonard, he was Lawrence Taylor.

OHIO STATE (42)

2012: Alex Boone, G, San Francisco
2013: James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis
2014: Cameron Heyward, DE, Pittsburgh
2015: Malcolm Jenkins, S, Philadelphia
2016: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas
2017: Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans
2018: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans

Rookies Denzel Ward and Sam Hubbard added some extra heft to the challengers, but in the end it came down to Zeke vs. Thomas. The Saints wideout wins with the more incredible season and longer postseason run, making it seven different Buckeye Award winners in as many seasons.

PENN STATE (33)

2012: Cameron Wake, DE/LB, Miami
2013: Tamba Hali, DE/LB, Kansas City
2014: Cameron Wake, DE/LB, Miami
2015: NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco
2016: Sean Lee, LB, Dallas
2017: Cameron Wake, DE/LB, Miami
2018: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

So much for Linebacker U -- the Nittany Lions program will be called Saquon State from now on.

PURDUE (9)

2012: Bernard Pollard, S, Baltimore
2013: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
2014: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
2015: Kawann Short, DT, Carolina
2016: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
2017: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
2018: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans

Pour out yet another Boiler for Brees, his fifth Alumni Award, an excellent piece of compensation after blowing a trip to the Super Bowl.

RUTGERS (15)

2012: Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore
2013: Jeremy Zuttah, C, Tampa Bay
2014: Devin McCourty, S, New England
2015: Devin McCourty, S, New England
2016: Devin McCourty, S, New England
2017: Devin McCourty, S, New England
2018: Devin McCourty, S, New England

The annual McCourty Brothers fiesta is won once again by Devin, though Mohamed Sanu and Ravens rookie back Gus Edwards threw their concrete shoes in the Hudson -- uh, I mean, their hats in the ring.

WISCONSIN (25)

2012: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston
2013: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle
2014: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston
2015: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston
2016: Travis Frederick, C, Dallas
2017: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle
2018: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle

Once again the Badgers provide as much bang for alumni buck as any program in the nation, and that was with 2016 winner Travis Frederick missing the year with illness. Watt, Wilson, and star Saints tackle Ryan Ramczyk all were worthy candidates, with the likes of Cleveland's Kevin Zeitler and Joe Schobert, Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt, and running backs James White of New England and Melvin Gordon of the Chargers a tier below. In the end, Wilson ekes out his third victory purely by positional import.

Comments

1 comment, Last at 12 Feb 2019, 3:21pm

1 Re: Rob Weintraub's Big Ten Alumni Trophies

by Boots Day // Feb 12, 2019 - 3:21pm

Anthony Walker Jr. wasn't a rookie this year! This was his sophomore season with the Colts. RB Justin Jackson, who really was a rookie and performed well in limited duty for the Chargers, looks ready to challenge him next year.

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