EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State football program held its 2018 awards banquet on Sunday afternoon before a crowd of more than 650 at the Kellogg Center on campus.
Junior defensive end Kenny Willekes was selected Most Valuable Player (Governor's Award recipient) by his teammates. Willekes, who leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 20.5, becomes the first-ever Spartan defensive end to win the Governor’s Award, which has been given out since 1931.
Below is the complete list of hardware presented at the 2018 Spartan Football Awards Banquet.
Governor’s Award (Most Valuable Player): Junior DE Kenny Willekes
Becomes the first Spartan defensive end to win the Governor’s Award . . . leads Big Ten in tackles for loss (20.5 for 84 yards), which ranks seventh in FBS . . . ranks fourth in the Big Ten in sacks (8.5 for 60 yards) . . . leads all conference defensive linemen with a career-high 76 tackles.
Downtown Coaches Club Award - Outstanding Defensive Player: Junior LB Joe Bachie
Leads MSU and ranks tied for 10th in Big Ten with 94 tackles . . . team captain on a defense that ranks No. 1 in the FBS in rushing defense, No. 14 in scoring defense and No. 14 in total defense . . . playmaker has 8.5 tackles for loss, five pass break-ups, three forced fumbles, one interception and one fumble recovery . . . named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week vs. Maryland (seven tackles, two TFLs, three forced fumbles).
Downtown Coaches Club Award - Outstanding Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Connor Heyward
Named one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award (nation’s most versatile player) . . . leads MSU in all-purpose yards (1,056), rushing yards (520), rushing TDs (5) and kick returns (287), while ranking third with 32 receptions for 249 yards . . . named Spartan Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns at Maryland, including an 80-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
Downtown Coaches Club Award - Outstanding Special Teams Player: Sophomore PK Matt Coghlin
Lou Groza Award semifinalist . . . has made 16-of-19 field goals (.842) . . . ranks among Big Ten leaders in field goals made (third with 16), field-goal percentage (third at .842) and scoring (ninth at 7.0 ppg) . . . named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week vs. Indiana.
President's Award (Senior Lineman/Senior Back Perseverance)
Offense: Senior TE Matt Sokol
Has played in 51 career games, including 22 starts at tight end . . . three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and will finish his Spartan career with a master’s degree in marketing research . . . caught an 18-yard touchdown on Senior Day vs. Rutgers.
Defense: Senior DT Gerald Owens
Has played in 30 career games . . . is a regular in the playing rotation at defensive tackle and has helped MSU ranked No. 1 in the FBS in rushing defense . . . will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Up Front Award (Outstanding Lineman)
Offense: Junior OL Tyler Higby
One of only two players on the MSU offense to start every game . . . started at three different positions this season (seven at left guard, three at left tackle, two at center) . . . was named Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week in wins over Utah State and Purdue.
Defense: Junior DE Kenny Willekes
Biggie Munn Award (Most Inspirational)
Offense: Senior WR Felton Davis III
Was one of the top receivers in the Big Ten before suffering a season-ending injury in the seventh game of the season vs. Michigan . . . caught game-winning TD pass with 19 seconds left at No. 8 Penn State on Oct. 13; had eight catches for 100 yards and two TDs in the win over the Nittany Lions . . . still ranks among the Big Ten leaders in receiving yards per game (67.7 ypg) and receptions (4.4 pg) . . . had 31 catches for 474 yards and four TDs in seven games . . . one of 29 Spartans in school history with 100 career receptions . . . ranks 11th in school history with 14 TD catches and 26th with 1,450 receiving yards.
Defense: Senior S Khari Willis
Team captain is having a career year with 81 tackles, eight pass break-ups and two interceptions . . . named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording nine tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break-up in win at No. 8 Penn State on Oct. 13 . . . has played in 45 career games with 29 starts.
Clarence Underwood Jr. Sportsmanship Award / Potsy Ross Scholar-Athlete Award: Junior OT Cole Chewins
Two-year starting left tackle will be a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree . . . named to 2018 Academic All-District Team and is looking to become an Academic All-American for the second year in a row . . . owns a 3.91 grade-point average and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in finance in December . . . will begin graduate school in January to pursue a master’s in finance.
MSU Football Players Association Community Service Award: Senior S Khari Willis
Outstanding Underclass Lineman
Offense: Sophomore OT Jordan Reid
Only offensive player to start all 12 games at the same position (right tackle) . . . played more snaps on offense than any other Spartan this season . . . named Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week after win over No. 8 Penn State.
Defense: Junior DT Raequan Williams
Has recorded career highs in tackles (49), tackles for loss (9.5) and pass break-ups (5) . . . is one of the main reasons why MSU’s ranks No. 1 in the FBS in rushing defense . . . has started 28 consecutive games.
Outstanding Underclass Back
Offense: Sophomore RB Connor Heyward
Defense: Junior CB Justin Layne
Ranks tied for first in Big Ten with career-best 15 pass break-ups . . . also has posted career highs in tackles (72) and tackles for loss (2.5) in 2018.
Jim Adams Award (Unsung Heroes)
Offense: Redshirt freshman OL Blake Bueter
Former walk-on earned a scholarship at the beginning of the season . . . worked his way into the starting lineup and started seven games in the regular season (four at center, three at right guard).
Defense: Junior DT Mike Panasiuk
His presence in the middle of the defensive line is one of the main reasons why MSU’s ranks No. 1 in the FBS in rushing defense . . . has started 28 straight games . . . ranks third on MSU’s defense with more than 175 production points . . . has 23 tackles, including 4.5 for losses, two pass break-ups, one interception and one blocked field goal in 2018.
Tommy Love Award (Most Improved)
Offense: Junior WR Darrell Stewart
Leads team with 39 receptions and also ranks among the team leaders in receiving yards (368) and all-purpose yards (459) . . . has caught a pass in 23 consecutive games.
Defense: Senior LB Andrew Dowell
Has recorded career highs in tackles (94), TFLs (8.0), sacks (3) and pass break-ups (8) . . . leads all active Spartans with 253 tackles in 50 career games, including 33 starts.
Danziger Award (Outstanding Detroit Area Player): Junior LB Tyriq Thompson
Has started 11 games at Sam linebacker . . . has recorded a career-high 30 tackles . . . has two forced fumbles, one interception, two tackles for loss and one sack.
Iron Man Award: Junior DT Raequan Williams
Captains Award: Junior LB Joe Bachie, Junior QB Brian Lewerke, Senior S Khari Willis
Doug Weaver Oil Can (Team Humorist): Darrell Stewart
Cowing Award (Senior Manager Award): Andrese Cockroft / Jerome Warfield
Con Demos Scholarship (Manager): Jack Melone
George Scofes Outstanding Faculty Award: Amy Tratt – Department of Kinesiology