Dec 10, 2011, 2:16 PM EDT
When Brian Kelly decided to replace the annual football banquet with an end-of-the-season awards show, a few eyebrows were raised. And even if some of the awards given last night did the same thing, the celebration of the Irish football season was a good one, filled with some great moments shared by those in the crowd and those watching from their computer screens a few thousand miles away. (Like this guy.)
With Kelly once again donning his gold bow tie, and players, families, fans and recruits decked out in their finest duds, the Irish coaching staff handed out eleven awards on the season. The winners were:
Offensive scout team player of the year: Everett Golson
Defensive scout team player of the year: Brandon Newman
Offensive newcomer of the year: Jonas Gray
Defensive newcomer of the year: Dan Fox
Special teams player of the year: Austin Collinsworth
Next-Man-In award: Robby Toma
Lineman of the year: Darius Fleming
Back of the year: Robert Blanton
Rockne Student-Athlete award: Manti Te’o
Nick Pietrosante award: Harrison Smith
Team MVP: Michael Floyd
Okay, let’s start with the eyebrow raises. It’s tough to call either Gray or Fox newcomers, but I get what the coaching staff was going with. That Fox, who beat out fellow nominee Aaron Lynch, was given the award goes to show you how high the staff is on the inside linebacker, who could be called to play an even bigger role depending on what Te’o decides to do after the season. (Adding to your awards controversy, Louis Nix took to Twitter to protest his nomination snub.) Outside linebacker Fleming won lineman of the year. Collinsworth took home the special teams award over George Atkinson, who returned two kickoffs for scores this year.
Even though there weren’t technically supposed to be acceptance speeches, Jonas Gray said a few words after receiving his award, taking to the stage with his crutches. There were some great moments as well. Zack Martin won his second Guardian of the year award. Harrison Smith was awarded the Nick Pietrosante award, properly feted by safeties coach Chuck Martin, who hoped he’d see Smith next playing for his beloved Chicago Bears. Michael Floyd thanked a wide variety of people, Rev. John Jenkins for allowing him to come back to school, high school coaches Mal Scanlan and Andy Bischoff for their support, and scout team defensive backs Jalen Brown and walk-on Joe Romano for their hard work all season. Floyd is only the 10th player in school history to be a two-time MVP, the last being quarterback Brady Quinn.
Unlike last year’s ceremony, captains for the upcoming season weren’t named, likely because the two leading candidates — Te’o and All-American tight end Tyler Eifert, haven’t officially decided if they are returning to school.
The Irish are on the field today, back to preparation for Florida State.
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