PISCATAWAY, N.J. (December 15, 2013) – Senior wide receiver Quron Pratt (Palmyra, N.J.) was awarded the Homer Hazel Trophy (donated by the RU Football Letterwinners Association) as Rutgers’ Football Most Valuable Player at the program’s 75th annual awards banquet, held Sunday evening at the Hilton in East Brunswick. The awards banquet is sponsored by the Rutgers Football Touchdown Club in conjunction with the Rutgers Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The Palmyra native has been a consistent player every time he hit the field at wide receiver and returning kicks. Pratt finished the season with 31 receptions for 493 yards and also returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the Eastern Michigan win. The senior also has provided outstanding leadership to a young wide receivers group.
The Scarlet Knights also honored their Most Valuable Players on offense, defense and special teams. On offense, sophomore running back Paul James (Glassboro, N.J.) took home the team’s offensive MVP honors. James earned All-AAC First Team honors on offense after finishing the regular season with 833 rushing yards and nine touchdowns despite missing four games with a lower leg injury.
Senior defensive end Marcus Thompson (Oakland Park, Fla.) and freshman linebacker Steve Longa (Saddle Brook, N.J.) shared defensive MVP honors. Thompson was a force the entire season on the Rutgers defense line, finishing with a team-high 5.5 sacks and 46 tackles. Longa earned Sporting News Freshman All-America honors after his team-leading 111 tackles on the season. He is the first RU freshman to record 100 tackles in a season sinceCourtney Greene in 2005 and the first RU middle linebacker since Gary Brackett in 2002 with over 100 tackles.
Senior punter Nick Marsh (Petaluma, Calif.) and freshman return specialist Janarion Grant (Trilby, Fla.) were named Special Teams co-MVPs (donated by Ron's Trophies). The California native averaged 40.3 yards per punt and pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line 21 times. On kickoffs, he totaled 12 touchbacks on the year.
Grant started his career inexciting fashion – returning the opening kickoff of the season for a 100-yard TD return at Fresno State. He also had one of the biggest impacts on a game a returner can make in the win over Arkansas – returning one punt for a touchdown and setting up the game-winning TD with another big punt return. He is the first freshman since 1998 to earn all-conference honors.
Senior center Dallas Hendrikson (St. Ansgar, Iowa) and sophomore defensive tackle Darius Hamilton (West Paterson, N.J.) received the David Bender Trophies (donated by the Bender Trust), awarded to the top offensive and defensive linemen on the team.
Hamilton has flourished in his first year as a starter. The true sophomore has 42 tackles and leads the squad with 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Hamilton has 4.5 sacks on the season, including 2.5 in one game at No. 17 UCF.
Hendrikson has been a steady mainstay on the offensive line the entire season for the Scarlet Knights. The senior has played his best football of his career in 2013.
Junior defensive lineman David Milewski (Sayreville, N.J.) was the recipient of the R Man Courage Award and the team’s Scholar-Athlete Award. The R Man Courage Award is given to the player who best demonstrates courage, belief, strength and inspiration to all while the team’s Scholar-Athlete Award is given to the player with the team’s highest GPA.
Milewski excelled in the classroom, compiling a 3.879 cumulative GPA as a finance major in the Rutgers Business School. He played in all 12 games and has totaled 31 tackles and one sack at both defensive tackle and defensive end. Milewski has battled back from three significant knee injuries and became a key contributor on defense this year. He has been an inspiration to everyone in the Rutgers football program for the toughness and courage he has shown throughout the rehabilitation process to return to thefield and play at a high level.
Sophomore defensive end Djwany Mera (Hollywood, Fla.) was presented with the Iron Knight Award. The Iron Knight Award is presented to the player who has demonstrated an exceptionally high level of mental and physical toughness throughout his career. The Florida native entered preseason camp third on the depth chart at defensive end – and worked his way into the full-time starter in all 12 games this year. Mera has 32 tackles, 5.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks.
Junior wide receiver Brandon Coleman (Accokeek, Md.) took home the Paul Robeson Award (donated by the Touchdown Club), which is presented annually to the "individual whose performance, leadership and dedication on and off the field during his career has had the greatest impact on Rutgers football" and is donated by the Rutgers Football Touchdown Club. A co-captain, Coleman is second on the team with 32 receptions for 473 yards and is second in school history with 19 career receiving touchdowns. Coleman tied a school record with 10 touchdown receptions in 2012 en route to All-BIG EAST Second Team accolades.
This year's recipient of the Loyal Knight Award (donated by the RAA), honoring the player whose character and dedication have proved resilient in his pursuit of excellence, was senior free safety Jeremy Deering (Tampa, Fla.). Deering has lined up all over the field during his career as one of the most unselfish players on the roster. Deering has played wide receiver, running back and free safety for the Scarlet Knights. In 2013, Deering totaled 39 tackles and one interception.
Sophomore defensive tackle Daryl Stephenson (Sayreville, N.J.) was presented with the Most Improved Scholar award (donated by Kevin and Helen Collins). A labor and employment relations major, Stephenson demonstrated an outstanding work ethic in the classroom, raising his cumulative GPA by almost half a point and earning Dean’s list honors in the 2013 spring semester. Stephenson has played in all 12 games on the defensive line this year.
Junior fullback Michael Burton (Long Valley, N.J.) and junior strong safety Lorenzo Waters (Accokeek, Md.) were the recipients of the Swarm and Finish Award (donated by the Knights of Columbus 257). The award is given to the player who exemplifies the type of consistent effort and intensity in best representing the Rutgers’ mantra to swarm and finish.
Burton has been a mainstay on offense for the Scarlet Knights – becoming an excellent lead blocker, strong receiver out of the backfield and a threat to carry the ball. Burton averaged 6.8 yards per carry and caught 19 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
The Maryland native played in 11 games and is third on the squad with 50 tackles. He has forced two fumbles and has one interception and four pass breakups on the year.
The Axe Player of the Year Award – which is given to the player who accumulated the most axe weekly player of the week honors for the season – was given to senior long snapper Robert Jones (West Caldwell, N.J.). One of the most unsung players in the program, Jones has been a four-year mainstay at snapper.
The Scarlet Knights close out the 2013 season Saturday, December 28 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Notre Dame. Kickoff from Yankee Stadium is set for noon on ESPN.