Justin Herbert Leads Pac-12 Alumni Awards

Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - Welcome to the 11th Annual NFL Alumni Awards! Once again I use the NFL's no-longer-pretending-to-be-amateurs collegiate pipeline to gauge major conference program strength, assess who is up and who is down at the ever-volatile pro level, and start arguments, because one thing lacking in today's sports media environment is contrived conflict!

We wrap up Alumni Award Week by highlighting the best of the west, the pros from the Pac-12. Southern Cal is back, baby! Historical Trojan Trophy winners such as Anthony Munoz, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, and Frank Gifford (OK, O.J. too…) are so agog with joy they have temporarily forgotten the forthcoming idiocy of jumping (along with UCLA) to the Big Ten… (For 2012-to-2016 winners, click here.)

Arizona Wildcats (10 alumni in the pros, per ESPN)

2017: Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE
2018: Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE
2019: Reggie Gilbert, LB, TEN
2020: Rob Gronkowski, TE, TB
2021: Rob Gronkowski, TE, TB
2022: Nick Folk, K, NE

If you think Tom Brady's retirement will leave a void among Michiganders, eight-time winner Gronk's move into full-time pitchman duty left the Wildcats bereft of quality candidates. That leaves Folk, who at least is repping Brady and Gronk's former franchise.

Arizona State Sun Devils (12)

2017: Terrell Suggs, DE, BAL
2018: Terrell Suggs, DE, BAL
2019: Lawrence Guy, DE, NE
2020: Lawrence Guy, DE, NE
2021: Lawrence Guy, DE, NE
2022: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, SF

Aiyuk is often forgotten amidst the 49ers' galaxy of stars, but he had a strong 2022, finishing 12th among wideouts by DYAR and massively helping the team's whack-a-mole passers regardless whom was playing quarterback that week.

California Golden Bears (19)

2017: Cameron Jordan, DE, NO
2018: Jared Goff, QB, LAR
2019: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
2020: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
2021: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
2022: Jared Goff, QB, DET

Upset alert! Anyone who predicted Goff would beat out Rodgers (seeking his eighth Golden Bear) before the season was suspected of tripping on Ayahuasca. But the man who once asked if the sun rose in the west defeated Green Bay's Seeker of All Knowledge by a wide margin. Goff put up more DYAR than anyone save Patrick Mahomes, while the man whose future will be determined in a dark cabin finished below fabled freak-flag-flier Andy Dalton. Heck, Cameron Jordan of New Orleans and Keenan Allen of the Chargers finished ahead of Rodgers in the voting. A trade to a major metropolitan area may be the kick in the pants needed for one last Alumni Award for A-Rod.

Colorado Buffaloes (10)

2017: David Bakhtiari, T, GB
2018: David Bakhtiari, T, GB
2019: David Bakhtiari, T, GB
2020: David Bakhtiari, T, GB
2021: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, CIN
2022: David Bakhtiari, T, GB

Awuzie was cruising to another Buff when he went down with a midseason knee injury. Bakhtiari, winner of six straight awards from 2015 to 2021, has missed a lot of time over the past three seasons himself, but his 11 strong games in 2022 best Chido's seven.

Oregon Ducks (23)

2017: Marcus Mariota, QB, TEN
2018: Max Unger, C, NO
2019: DeForest Buckner, DT, SF
2020: Justin Herbert, QB, LAC
2021: Justin Herbert, QB, LAC
2022: Justin Herbert, QB, LAC

The talent level coming out of Eugene has risen sharply of late, as seen by the candidacies of Detroit tackle Penei Sewell and Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. Standby standout defensive lineman Arik Armstead of the 49ers was in it until the end as well. But there was little doubt the Duckie would splash in Herbert's bathtub for a third straight season, especially after Oregon Oak made his first postseason (all discussion of the Chargers Choke was outlawed at the award ceremony).

Oregon State Beavers (17)

2017: Johnny Hekker, P, LAR
2018: Steven Nelson, CB, KC
2019: Jordan Poyer, S, BUF
2020: Brandin Cooks, WR, HOU
2021: Jordan Poyer, S, BUF
2022: Jordan Poyer, S, BUF

Not much competition for the Beav out there, and Poyer's injury-hit campaign wins out over Cooks, who was mediocre in the NFL Siberia that is Houston. Poyer's win, his third in four years, adds to a trophy-laden offseason that includes capturing the long-drive award at the Pro Bowl skills contest.

Stanford Cardinal (24)

2017: David DeCastro, G, PIT
2018: Andrew Luck, QB, IND
2019: Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR
2020: Andrus Peat, T, NO
2021: Davis Mills, QB, HOU
2022: Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR/SF

It has been a long slow decline since the heady days when multiple Harbaugh-/Shaw-coached superstar Cards waged pitched battle for the Tree Trophy. Thankfully, McCaffrey was given fresh life in a return to the Bay Area and cruised to the award, restoring at least a hint of former luster. The pressure is on new coach Troy Taylor to bring back something resembling the glory days in Palo Alto.

UCLA Bruins (27)

2017: Anthony Barr, LB, MIN
2018: Myles Jack, LB, JAX
2019: Eric Kendricks, LB, MIN
2020: Kolton Miller, T, LV
2021: Kenny Clark, DT, GB
2022: Jake Brendel, C, SF

The NFL Bruins are hardly grizzly or polar bears. They are more like brown bears—mostly anonymous, trench-manning workaday types who won't ever have movies or documentaries made about them. Clark and Dallas run-stuffer Osa Odighizuwa were right there but Brendel tipped them at the tape, mainly because the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the playoffs while Clark watched from his hibernation den.

USC Trojans (25)

2017: Everson Griffen, DE, MIN
2018: Jurrell Casey, DT, TEN
2019: Tyron Smith, T, DAL
2020: Leonard Williams, DT, NYG
2021: Leonard Williams, DT, NYG
2022: Talanoa Hufanga, S, SF

Williams missed a few games to injury, preventing his three-peat and opening the door to a fascinating race between breakout star Hufanga, who channeled (theoretical) regular Trojan Trophy winner Troy Palamalu in his style of play and hair, and Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Lynn Swann-esque Sun God catching passes with the Lions. In a triumph of tropics over desert, Tonga defeats Egypt as Hufanga takes home the award (yes, I know both players are Americans).

Utah Utes (21)

2017: Alex Smith, QB, KC
2018: Eric Weddle, S, BAL
2019: Star Lotulelei, DT, BUF
2020: Garrett Bolles, T, DEN
2021: Garrett Bolles, T, DEN
2022: Devin Lloyd, LB, JAX

Another example of injury preventing a three-peat as Bolles hands over the Ute to Lloyd, who impressed with his violent play in the heart of Jacksonville's emerging defense. Jags fans regaled the win with a rousing chorus of "Duuuuuuu—Vinnnnnn" but it just didn't work…

Washington Huskies (27)

2017: Budda Baker, S, ARI
2018: Cory Littleton, LB, LAR
2019: Marcus Peters, CB, BAL
2020: Budda Baker, S, ARI
2021: Vita Vea, DT, TB
2022: Vita Vea, DT, TB

Unfortunately, the voting committee for U-Dub was relegated to watching a ton of NFC South action, as the main competition was centered in that mediocre division in 2022. Vea, fellow Bucs defensive lineman Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Falcons right tackle Kaleb McGary, and Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson were all clustered in a four-way battle. The Solomonic thing to do would be to give a Husky Paw to each player, but that's the easy way out, so a steel cage match was arranged. Vea, the biggest and strongest of the challengers, emerged from the Octagon with his second straight award.

Washington State Cougars (11)

2017: Deone Bucannon, LB, ARI
2018: Deone Bucannon, LB, ARI
2019: Gardner Minshew, QB, JAX
2020: Gardner Minshew, QB, JAX
2021: Jalen Thompson, S, ARI
2022: Abraham Lucas, T, SEA

Thanks goodness for the emergence of Lucas, the rookie on the right side of the Seahawks line! The Wazzu winner usually goes to a player who would scarcely qualify for the award for most schools, but with Abe the Cougs have an honest recipient for once.


4 comments, Last at 02 Mar 2023, 12:02pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 24, 2023 - 10:47am

The NFL Bruins are hardly grizzly or polar bears. They are more like brown bears—mostly anonymous, trench-manning workaday types who won't ever have movies or documentaries made about them. 

You are describing black bears.

"Grizzly" is just a name for regional population of brown bears (ursus arctos). All grizzlys are brown bears. Some consider it a subspecies, but the number of brown bear subspecies ranges from 1 to 90 depending on who you ask.

Perhaps, like the Golden Bear, it's a previously-formidable population which has gone extinct.

\some people lump polar bears in with the brown bears. Others consider brown bears to be a paraspecies of polar bears. It's confusing.

Points: 3

#3 by young curmudgeon // Feb 25, 2023 - 3:52pm

As a biology guy and wildlife photographer, I was logging in to make the same point when I found that someone had beaten me to it.  One of the reasons I like this site is because so many of the commenters know a lot about stuff other than football and are willing to share their knowledge.

Points: 2

#2 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 24, 2023 - 10:51am

Amon-Ra St. Brown

Really no one respects St. Brown, do they?

Points: 0

#4 by serutan // Mar 02, 2023 - 12:01pm

One of the advantages of being a sun god is that one can lobsterize anyone who disses them.

Points: 0

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