Alabama’s Allen wins Nagurski Award as top defensive player

Southern California quarterback Max Browne (4) is sacked for a 5-yard loss by Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Team success is breeding individual success for members of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Alabama senior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Monday night given annually to the nation’s best college defensive player.

Allen called it “the greatest single accomplishment of my life.”

Allen was selected over four other finalists, including Crimson Tide teammate Reuben Foster, a linebacker. Florida State cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers and Clemson defensive end Christian Wilkins were also among the finalists who attended the awards ceremony hosted by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

Allen joins an elite list of former Nagurski Trophy recipients that includes defensive linemen Aaron Donald, Warren Sapp and Ndamukong Suh, linebackers Luke Kuechly, Derrick Johnson and Terrell Suggs, and defensive backs Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson and Roy Williams.

“I’m so honored when I think about all of the guys who’ve won this award,” Allen said Monday night.

Alabama (13-0) is ranked No. 1 in the country, in large part due to its dominant defense.

The 6-foot-3, 291-pound Allen has 56 tackles and nine sacks this season for the Crimson Tide, tied for third-most in the Southeastern Conference. He had four tackles and 1 1/2 sacks this past weekend as Alabama defeated Florida 54-16 to win its third straight SEC title.

Allen is perhaps best known for his flying hit on Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight earlier this season in which he leaped over running back Trayveon Williams, who tried to chip him, and took down the Aggies’ quarterback. The highlight reel tackle earned him a spot on the national stage.

Later in that same game linebacker Ryan Anderson ripped a ball loose and Allen picked it up, threw off a would-be tackler and rambled 30 yards for a touchdown.

Allen was projected as a likely first-round draft pick last year but decided to return to Alabama because he wanted to win a national championship.

Allen beat out some solid competition for the award, including Peppers, who has 66 tackles – 13 for a loss – and one interception for the Wolverines this season. Peppers learned Monday that he was the only defensive player selected as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

Foster, who had 94 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble this season, also had a strong season at Alabama.

McFadden, a 6-foot-2, 198-pound cornerback, had 17 tackles and eight interceptions for the Seminoles.

And Wilkins had 44 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks for the playoff-bound Tigers, who held on to beat Virginia Tech 42-35 in the ACC championship.

“The 2016 Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalists represent the very best college football has to offer,” said John Rocco, executive director of the Charlotte Touchdown Club. “Each of these young men has distinguished himself as a player and as a leader.”

The Charlotte Touchdown Club also announced that Andrew King, a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, as recipient of its inaugural Defender of the Nation Award. The new award honors the nation’s military academies and their top student-athletes.

The keynote address was given by Duke football coach David Cutcliffe.

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