T.J. Hockenson Named Finalist for John Mackey Award

By RossWB on November 20, 2018 at 10:00 am
© Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The John Mackey Award, given annually to the top tight end in the nation (or at least the top tight end as voted upon by the John Mackey Award Selection Committee), narrowed its list of possible winners to three on Monday and to the surprise of no one, there's a representative of Tight End U among that final trio: 

Iowa redshirt sophomore T.J. Hockenson was named one of the three finalists for the award, along with Stanford's Kaden Smith and Missouri's Albert Okwuegbunam. The winner will be announced on December 5 and the award will be presented at the College Football Awards Show on December 6. 

The Hawkeyes have had multiple semifinalists for the Mackey Award under Kirk Ferentz, including Tony Moeaki (2009), Allen Reisner (2010), and Noah Fant (2018), but just one other finalist -- Dallas Clark, who also went on to win the award back in 2002. Hockenson seems to have a very solid chance of adding another Mackey Award to Iowa's collection, based on the other finalists. His number stack up very favorably to theirs: 

T.J. Hockenson, Iowa 41 663 16.2 7*
Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri 43 466 10.8 6
Kaden Smith, Stanford 47 635 13.5 2

*Hockenson has 6 receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown on Iowa's wonderful fake field goal from the Minnesota game. 

Hockenson has more receiving yards than either of the other finalists, as well as a much better per-catch average and more touchdowns than his competition. Tight end is about more than just receiving stats, but Hockenson seems to hold up well in those other aspects as well. He's developed into a very strong blocker on the edge, as most recently evidenced by his marvelous pancake block against a hapless Illinois defender on Saturday: 

Hockenson has developed into the total package at tight end and he would be a worthy winner of the John Mackey Award. We wish him the best of luck in that pursuit.

Of course, Hockenson isn't the only tight end on this Iowa team that could be deserving of some love from the John Mackey Award. Noah Fant was named a semifinalist alongside Hockenson, but he didn't make the cut to be a finalist. His numbers compare favorably with the guys who were named finalists, though. 

T. J. Hockenson, Iowa 41 663 16.2 7*
Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri 43 466 10.8 6
Kaden Smith, Stanford 47 635 13.5 2
Noah Fant, Iowa 38 507 13.3 7

Fant's touchdowns are down a bit from a year ago (when he had 11), but his receptions and receiving yards are both up (30 receptions for 494 yards last year, versus 38 receptions for 407 yards this year), Even if he hasn't the same dazzling heights in some ways as he did last year and even if he hasn't been utilized as well (or as often) as many Iowa fans would like, he's still put together a very strong year. Unfortunately, it apparently wasn't quite strong enough in the eyes of the Mackey Award Selection Committee.

Nor is Fant the only surprising snub, though. Texas A&M's Jace Sternberger is leading the NCAA in receiving yards among tight ends (729) and touchdowns (8), while posting a dazzling 17.4 yards per catch average. Sternberger was on the list of semifinalists, but his gaudy numbers didn't sway the Selection Committee when it came time to name finalists. UCLA's Caleb Wilson is second in the NCAA in receptions (51) and tops in receiving yards (781) and has a respectable four touchdowns -- but he also failed to make the cut from semifinalist to finalist. Alabama's Irv Smith was another semifinalist, but despite his very good numbers (32 receptions, 586 yards, 18.3 ypc, 7 TD) he also was not named a finalist. So Fant is in some pretty good company; there's a handful of guys who weren't named finalists who look every bit as good as the guys who were named finalists. 

Regardless of who should or should not have been named finalists, though, there's no disputing that T.J. Hockenson was named a finalist and for that we're grateful. Go get some hardware in a few weeks, T.J. 

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