Three Local Athletes Make The Bronko Nagurski Trohphy Watch List

Jul 26, 2022, 10:23 AM

Utah Utes - Washington State Cougars...

Junior Tafuna #58 of the Utah Utes celebrates sacking Jarrett Guarantano #18 of the Washington State Cougars during their game September 25, 2021 at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY- Three local athletes made the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list Tuesday morning. Utah’s Junior Tafuna and Clark Phillips III along with BYU’s Payton Wilgar made the 85-man cut for the best defensive player in college football.

The award is determined by the Football Writers Association of America and has been given out since 1993. The FWAA will cut the list of 85 down to five finalists on November 16th with the winner being announced on December 5th at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy Nominees

Tafuna seemingly came out of nowhere for the Utes on the defensive line after a season-ending injury to Viane Moala during the San Diego State game. Tafuna’s efforts earned him Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year after racking up 33 total tackles, 22 solo, 11 assisted, 4.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and one pass defended.

Phillips III put on a cornerback clinic in 2021 with his crowning glory coming against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Unsurprisingly, Phillips III is a hot commodity for the upcoming 2022 season with many national pundits expecting big things from the outstanding corner. The lockdown corner finished the 2021 season with 61 total tackles, 45 solo, 16 assisted, one forced fumble, two interceptions- one for a touchdown, and 13 passes defended.

Wilgar once again finds himself on the Nagurski Trophy watch list. The talented linebacker for the Cougars was named the Pro Football Network All-Independent Linebacker of the Year, while being selected to the PFN All-Independent First Team and Phil Steele’s All-Independent Second Team in 2021. Despite missing the last three games of BYU’s season last year, Wilgar still accounted for 27 tackles with six for a loss putting him second place on the team. He was third on the team in total tackles with 56 and solo tackles with 29.

All three players are expected to play a big role for their teams in 2022.

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Three Local Athletes Make The Bronko Nagurski Trohphy Watch List