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Rob Weintraub's SEC Alumni Trophies

Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is more commonly known as the Ode to Joy. Weintraub's Ninth Symphony—aka the ninth annual Alumni Awards, my selections for every season's best NFL player from each of the Power 5 college programs—is similarly a joyous occasion that caps this football season. 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.

We begin with the conference that has won the national title 11 times in the last 15 years, including 2020, the almighty SEC. (Cue the opening chords of Beethoven's Fifth…)


ALABAMA (57 alumni in the pros, per ESPN)

2012: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
2013: Marcell Dareus, DT, Buffalo
2014: Marcell Dareus, DT, Buffalo
2015: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
2016: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
2017: Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans
2018: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
2019: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee
2020: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee

There will be a new surge of Crimson Tiders coming into the league once again this season, including the usual half-dozen or so first-round draft picks, as the dominance down in Tuscaloosa shows no signs of abating. Nick Saban shows no signs of stepping back, nor did his former running back—Henry repeated as Alabama Alumni Award champ with another incredible campaign, including being our top-rated back in rushing DYAR by a comfortable margin.


2012: George Wilson, S, Buffalo
2013: Jason Peters, T, Philadelphia
2014: Jason Peters, T, Philadelphia
2015: Darren McFadden, RB, Dallas
2016: Jason Peters, T, Philadelphia
2017: Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore
2018: Trey Flowers, DE, New England
2019: Dre Greenlaw, LB, San Francisco
2020: Frank Ragnow, C, Detroit

A clear win of the Sooey Award for Detroit's big Hog in the middle.


2012: Ben Grubbs, G, New Orleans
2013: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
2014: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
2015: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
2016: Dee Ford, LB, Kansas City
2017: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
2018: Dee Ford, LB, Kansas City
2019: Braden Smith, G, Indianapolis
2020: Cam Newton, QB, New England

A very tricky call among this year's Plainsmen, with Smith, Cincinnati's Carl Lawson and Josh Bynes, Carlton Davis of Tampa Bay, and Derrick Brown of Carolina all having good but not great years. Then there was Newton, who was hardly great, or really even good, but has the positional advantage and at one point seemed like the Comeback Player of the Year before COVID sapped his season. Approximate Value is a handy metric to compare players across positions. Newton (12 AV) was nearly double his nearest competitors from Auburn. In honor of this most perplexing, confounding, horrible, and memorable year on Earth, it feels right to have a pandemic survivor win this award.


2012: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh
2013: Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland
2014: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh
2015: (tie) Reggie Nelson, S, Cincinnati and Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati
2016: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati
2017: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati
2018: Mike Pouncey, C, Los Angeles Chargers
2019: Joe Haden, CB, Pittsburgh
2020: D.J. Humphries, T, Arizona

Not to detract from Humphries' solid season, but who ever thought we'd see the day an Arizona lineman won such a prestigious award, especially from the Florida football factory, but such is the state of pro Gators in 2020. Perhaps the pro-bound Kyles, Pitts and Trask, can change that.


2012: Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati
2013: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati
2014: Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City
2015: Thomas Davis, LB, Carolina
2016: Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati
2017: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
2018: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
2019: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland
2020: Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago

Chubb's injury put him behind the hedges in the race to repeat as Top Dawg, but he might not have caught Smith even with a full season, so excellent a campaign did Roquan have in the Midway. Will Matthew Stafford rebound from his career doldrums to contest for this trophy next season with a new team?


2012: Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay
2013: Danny Trevathan, LB, Denver
2014: Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay
2015: Danny Trevathan, LB, Denver
2016: Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay
2017: Larry Worford, G, New Orleans
2018: Larry Worford, G, New Orleans
2019: Za'Darius Smith, LB, Green Bay
2020: Za'Darius Smith, LB, Green Bay

Bud Dupree's untimely injury gift-wrapped this trophy for Smith, who wins back-to-back Big Blue Awards.

LSU (38)

2012: Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona
2013: Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona
2014: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, New York Giants
2015: (tie) Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona and Tyrann Mathieu, CB, Arizona
2016: Andrew Whitworth, T, Cincinnati
2017: Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta
2018: Jamal Adams, S, New York Jets
2019: Tre'Davious White, CB, Buffalo
2020: Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota

This should have been an easy call for Joe Burrow, but his tragic injury prevented him from winning the Bayou Bengal Trophy as a rookie. Instead, it was a catfight to the end, with Adams, Tre'Davious White, Tyrann Mathieu, Jarvis Landry, and Devin White having arguments. But it was, shockingly, a different LSU rookie coming out on top. J.J. trailed only Davante Adams in DYAR, an amazing feat for a first-year player.


2012: Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis
2013: K.J. Wright, LB, Seattle
2014: Fletcher Cox, DE, Philadelphia
2015: Fletcher Cox, DE, Philadelphia
2016: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas
2017: Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia
2018: Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia
2019: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas
2020: Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City

Prescott's brutal leg injury opened the Cowbell Award up to a plethora of excellent defenders, including Cox, Wright, Philly's Darius Slay, and Montez Sweat of Washington. But Jones was the standout, despite the disappointment of the Super Bowl.


2012: Aldon Smith, LB, San Francisco
2013: Sheldon Richardson, DT, New York Jets
2014: Sheldon Richardson, DT, New York Jets
2015: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City
2016: Shane Ray, LB, Denver
2017: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Seattle
2018: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Minnesota
2019: Mitch Morse, C, Buffalo
2020: Mitch Morse, C, Buffalo

Morse scrapes past Richardson to repeat, mainly because his team advanced to the AFC title game and Richardson's didn't.


2012: Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco
2013: Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco
2014: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
2015: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
2016: Laremy Tunsil, G, Miami
2017: Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
2018: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
2019: A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee
2020: (TIE) A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee and DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle

Metcalf: 333 DYAR, 19.5% DVOA, 1,303 YDS, 10 TD, 13 AV, 15.7 YPC
Brown: 331 DYAR, 24.9% DVOA, 1,075 Yds, 11 TD, 13 AV, 15.4 YPC

Both Metcalf and Brown played on division-winning teams that flamed out in the playoffs. Both received passes from excellent quarterbacks. Both go with initials instead of full first names (it's Arthur Juan Brown and DeKaylin Zecharius Metcalf, by the way—shouldn't it be DZ Metcalf?). Both are in their second season as pros, having been picked in the second round of the 2019 draft.

We're sure they aren't the same person, right?


2012: John Abraham, DE, Atlanta
2013: Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago
2014: Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo
2015: Johnathan Joseph, CB, Houston
2016: Jadeveon Clowney, LB, Houston
2017: Jadeveon Clowney, LB, Houston
2018: Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England
2019: Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England
2020: Javon Kinlaw, DT, San Francisco

It was a tough year on the injury front for former Gamecocks. Gilmore's season ended early with a severe quad ouchie, while Clowney, Jeffery, and Deebo Samuel barely left the gate. Jared Cook's monstrous fumble in the divisional round against Tampa Bay hindered his candidacy, and fellow tight end Hayden Hurst of Atlanta was pretty blah. That leaves Kinlaw, whose rookie season was not only strong but complete, and left little doubt he would be a major force on the interior in coming seasons—provided he stays healthy.


2012: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
2013: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
2014: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
2015: Eric Berry, S, Kansas City
2016: Eric Berry, S, Kansas City
2017: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans
2018: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans
2019: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans
2020: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans

Four seasons in the pros, four Vol trophies for AK-41.

TEXAS A&M (28)

2012: Von Miller, LB, Denver
2013: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami
2014: Von Miller, LB, Denver
2015: Von Miller, LB, Denver
2016: Von Miller, LB, Denver
2017: Von Miller, LB, Denver
2018: Von Miller, LB, Denver
2019: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee
2020: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee

COVID-19 affected so many things in our lives. It also shaped the race for the Aggie Award. Tannehill's repeat probably doesn't happen if Cleveland's Myles Garrett played in the two games he missed due to a bout with the coronavirus. It was still a very close race but Tannehill's positional advantage and full season pushed him past Garrett at the wire.


2012: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago
2013: Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis
2014: Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia
2015: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago
2016: Casey Hayward, CB, San Diego
2017: Casey Hayward, CB, Los Angeles Chargers
2018: Zach Cunningham, LB, Houston
2019: Zach Cunningham, LB, Houston
2020: Zach Cunningham, LB, Houston

Houston's defense may have been atrocious but that didn't mean Big Z didn't earn another Big V.


4 comments, Last at 15 Feb 2021, 4:25pm

2 Is Ode to Joy really the…

Is Ode to Joy really the name of the whole symphony? I thought it just referred to the eponymous choral piece in the 4th movement.

Also... Cam Newton, "pandemic survivor"? Holy shite, he only had a 99.999% chance of survival! Can't believe he overcame the odds! Circumstances aside, he sucked this year. At least he was the best Auburn QB on the Patriots roster.

Good piece, though! Looking forward to seeing the other Power 5 conferences.

3 Ode to joy

Ode to joy is the poem that Beethoven used as the lyrics for the choral movement. I have seen the coral movement notated as both the fourth and the fifth,but always the last (when it's the fifth, the two minutes or so of instrumental discussion about the theme is the fourth) 


So, yeah, the 9th symphony is known as the ode to joy, but that's not what it's called

4 Thanks for the explanation!…

In reply to by David

Thanks for the explanation! I didn't realize that some people divided the Ninth into five movements. I'd only seen it split into four.