Nov. 15, 2011
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – NFL veteran and Super Bowl champion Clark Haggans came to Colorado State as a walk-on. Every year, players like him earn scholarships for their dedication and work ethic in overcoming countless challenges.
In 2010, a national college award, the Burlsworth Trophy, was created to recognize such players, those that began their careers as walk-ons and haveshown outstanding performance on the field. And Colorado State linebacker James Skelton is one of 50 candidates for the 2011 award, the Burlsworth Foundation and Springdale Rotary Club announced Tuesday.
A 6-2, 230-pound junior from Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colo., Skelton enters Week 12 ranked fourth in the Mountain West with 8.2 tackles per game. He has 68 tackles (31 solo), 1½ tackles for loss, one sack and two forced fumbles in eight games, all starts.
After impressive work in the Rams’ offseason conditioning program, he earned the starting role at middle linebacker in place of an injured Michael Kawulok, then replaced an injured Mychal Sisson on the outside three games into the year.
Named Oct. 21 the ninth-best overall player in the Mountain West at midseason, by CollegeFootballNews.com, he also was selected first-team midseason all-conference by the same organization on Oct. 21.
In the Rams’ season-opening win at New Mexico (Sept. 3), Skelton made his first start since Sept. 11, 2010, and his first career as a middle linebacker.
He then turned in one of his best career games in an exhilarating, 35-34 win at Utah State (Sept. 24), forcing two fumbles, including a third-quarter takeaway scooped up by Shaquil Barrett and returned 15 yards for a critical TD to pull CSU to within 14-10 in the third quarter, before the Rams preserved a double-overtime win by preventing a two-point conversion. Earlier in the third quarter, Skelton stripped QB Chuckie Keeton near the Rams’ goal line, but the ball flew out of bounds. He hen finished the quarter, with the score tied 21-21, by dropping USU’s Chuck Jacobs 2 yards shy of the sticks to force a punt and prevent any possible game-winning FG in the final seconds of regulation.
Nominees for the award, which is named after former Arkansas walk-on and All-America offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth, must have started their first seasons of participation with a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision program without financial aid from their athletic department.
Without one Division I scholarship offer, Burlsworth walked on to the Razorbacks team in 1994, worked his way into a three-year starter and was eventually named an All-American in 1998. He was selected as the 63rd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL draft, but was tragically killed in a car accident 11 days later. The Burlsworth Foundation was created in his memory and supports the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular those children that have limited opportunities.
In 2010, Georgia Tech center Sean Bedford was the inaugural winner of the Burlsworth Trophy.
The list of Rams competing for 2011 individual national awards:
- Allstate Good Works Team (community service): S Ivory Herd (one of 132 players nominated; did not make 11-man FBS team announced in September).
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player): LB Mychal Sisson (one of 87 on preseason watch list; finalists announced Nov. 17; winner Dec. 12).
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player): DE Nordly Capi (added to watch list after Week 1 performance; finalists announced Nov. 17; winner Dec. 12).
- Burlsworth Trophy (former walk-on): LB James Skelton (one of 50 nominees).
- GEICO College Football Play of the Year: WR Thomas Coffman, diving catch from Pete Thomas vs. No. 5 Boise State (winner announced Nov. 25).
- John Mackey Award (top tight end): TE Crockett Gillmore (one of 25 on midseason watch list; did not make semifinalists announced Nov. 14).
- Ray Guy Award (top punter): P Pete Kontodiakos (one of 54 on midseason watch list; did not make semifinalists announced Nov. 11).
- Rimington Trophy (top center): C Weston Richburg (one of 43 on preseason watch list; finalists announced Dec. 5; winner Dec. 8).
- Rotary Lombardi Award (top lineman or linebacker): LB Mychal Sisson (one of 125 on preseason watch list; semifinalists announced Oct. 27; finalists Nov. 8; winner Dec. 7).
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