If you're named a finalist for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's best tight end, it stands to reason that you should also win your conference's award for best tight end, right? Logic doesn't always hold true during awards season, but thankfully for T.J. Hockenson and the Iowa Hawkeyes it did this week, as he was named the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year by the Big Ten:
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) November 28, 2018
Hockenson becomes the second Iowa player this week (after Ihmir Smith-Marsette) to earn an award named in honor of a former Iowa player this week: the "Clark" in Kwalick-Clark refers to former Iowa great Dallas Clark. Despite Iowa's prodigious history with tight ends during the Kirk Ferentz era at Iowa, Hockenson is the first Iowa player to win the award (which began in 2011).
Statistically, the argument in favor of Hockenson for Best Tight End in the Big Ten was pretty much bulletproof: among tight ends he led the league in receptions (46) and receiving yards (717) and was second in touchdowns (6), behind teammate Noah Fant and Penn State's Pat Freiermuth (who each had 7 touchdowns). As we know, Hockenson was also a sensational blocker; he's the complete package as a tight end and recognizing him as the league's best is entirely appropriate.
T.J. Hockenson repped Tight End U extremely well this season, and now he's got an award to prove it.
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) November 28, 2018
Of course, his aforementioned teammate isn't too shabby himself, which is why it was a delightful -- and entirely deserved -- surprise to see that both Hockenson and Fant earned first team All-Big Ten honors this year. Hockenson was named to the first team by the media, while Fant was named to the first team by the coaches (Fant was second team by the media and Hockenson was second team by the coaches). Fant was very good himself -- 39 receptions, 519 yards, 7 touchdowns, as well as being a good blocker in his own right -- so it's gratifying to see him recognized like this as well. The two best tight ends in the Big Ten happened to play for Iowa this year and the All-Big Ten teams perfectly reflect that. The joint All-Big Ten honor for Fant and Hockenson is also a bit historic:
Noah Fant and T.J Hockenson are the first pair of tight ends from the same team to both be named first-team All-Big Ten in Big Ten History.
— David Eickholt (@DEickholt247) November 28, 2018
Meanwhile, 80% of Iowa's offensive line received some form of All-Big Ten honors this year -- every position except the ever-rotating right guard spot, which was basically the Spinal Tap drummer role of this Iowa roster. The coaches named left guard Ross Reynolds and left tackle Alaric Jackson second team All-Big Ten, while the media named Jackson second team All-Big Ten and Reynolds and center Keegan Render third team All-Big Ten. Tristan Wirfs was honorable mention All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media (the coaches also named Render honorable mention, while the media tabbed Ihmir Smith-Marsette for honorable mention All-Big Ten, which was rather unexpected). A full list of the Big Ten award-winners and honorees is available here.
The offensive line and the two-headed Fant-Hockenson monster were unquestionably the best -- and most consistent -- aspects of Iowa's offense this year, so it's nice to see their strong play recognized by the league's coaches and media. Congratulations to Hockenson, Fant, Jackson, Reynolds, Render, Wirfs, and Smith-Marsette.