BREAKING NEWS: Josey Jewell is very, very good at football. We've know that for a while, but Jewell's senior season has been the icing on a very fine cake and now he's getting the postseason recognition hardware to prove it. A day after receiving the Jack Lambert Award, Josey was named to the All-Big Ten first team defense. Today he got even more individual honors, as we named the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award from the Big Ten coaches and media:
So at least Josey will get to win one award with Butkus in the name this year. Oh, and he also got the big prize too -- the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year Award:
Josey led the Big Ten in tackles with 125, seven more than the next-closest player (Rutgers' Trevor Morris). He did that while playing only 11 games, too; every other player in the top ten in tackles played all 12 regular season games. Tackles aren't everything, but Jewell has a knack for being around the ball and making plays, as we know well after watching him for the last four years. Jewell had 4.5 sacks (despite the fact that Iowa is not exactly a blitz-happy team) and 13.5 tackles for loss (fifth most in the Big Ten). He made his presence known in coverage, too, with two interceptions and 11 passes broken up, which is the fourth highest total in the Big Ten; he's one of just two linebackers (along with Wisconsin's T.J. Edwards) in the Top 15 of passes defended. There's not much that Josey couldn't -- or didn't -- do on defense for Iowa this year, or in the past four seasons.
Jewell becomes the first Iowa linebacker to win the Big Ten's Linebacker of the Year Award, although the award has only been being handed out since 2011. (That does mean that none of James Morris, Christian Kirksey, or Anthony Hitchens won the award in 2013; Wisconsin's Chris Borland was the honoree instead.) As best I can tell, Jewell is also the first Iowa linebacker to receive any sort of individual honor from the league. Again, that's in no small part due to the fact that a Linebacker of the Year award didn't exist until the 2011 season -- Chad Greenway or Pat Angerer likely would have challenged for the award had it existed during their playing days and Andre Tippett and Larry Station may have had the award on lockdown if it had existed during the 1980s.
Jewell is also the first Iowa linebacker to ever win the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, too. He's just the second Iowa player ever to win that award, after Leroy Smith in 1991. Again, to a degree that's a product of the award's relative recency -- it was created in 1990, so Iowa defensive legends like Station, Tippett, Merton Hanks, Alex Karras, or Paul Krause never had an opportunity to win it. But Iowa has had some pretty excellent defensive players since 1990 as well -- like Jared DeVries, Aaron Kampman, Bob Sanders, Abdul Hodge, Chad Greenway, Pat Angerer, and Adrian Clayborn (to name a few). Every season is different and every set of challengers is different, so it's difficult to directly compare guys from year to year, let alone across eras, but still: Josey Jewell stands alone.
Jewell's honors, coupled with Josh Jackson winning Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, also gives Iowa 33 individual Big Ten awards all time, which ranks as the fourth-most among Big Ten schools. Only players from Ohio State (52), Michigan (45), and Wisconsin (38) have received more individual awards than Iowa players. Congratulations on an incredibly well-deserved honor, Josey. We're so very happy that you got a late Iowa offer and didn't go to Luther, which allowed us to watch you terrorize opposing offensive players for the last four seasons.