Brackett, who originally earned a spot on the Rutgers football team as a walk-on in 1999, manned the middle linebacker position all season and was the leading tackler for the Knights with 126 stops. Brackett, a senior, was second in the BIG EAST in tackles. Brackett also led the Scarlet Knights with 13 tackles for loss (for minus 47 yards) and was second with four sacks (for minus 26 yards). Brackett recorded double-digit stops in eight of the Scarlet Knights 12 games. Brackett recorded a season high 14 tackles at Pittsburgh.
Senior safety SHAWN SEABROOKS (Paterson, NJ) was named Most Valuable Player – Defense and senior tight end L.J SMITH (Highland Park, NJ) was named Most Valuable Player – Offense, both for the second consecutive year. Seabrooks was the Scarlet Knights’ second leading tackler with 100 stops, and also had one interception which he returned 33 yards for a TD against Army. Smith battled through an injury-plagued season, in which he missed two full games and parts of others due to injury, to lead Rutgers with 32 catches for 384 yards and three TDs.
Junior defensive back NATE JONES (Scotch Plains, NJ) was named MVP – Special Teams. Jones was a two-time BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Week selection during the season. Jones led the BIG EAST in kickoff returns (28.6 yards per return), No. 6 nationally. He returned kickoffs 100 yards for touchdowns against Tennessee and Syracuse. Also a starting cornerback for the Scarlet Knights, Jones was recently named to Verizon’s All-Academic second team.
Senior offensive tackle HOWARD BLACKWOOD (Springfield, MA) and senior defensive tackle WILL BURNETT (Asbury Park, NJ) received the David Bender Trophies, awarded annually to the top offensive and defensive linemen on the team. Burnett came back from a knee injury that sidelined him last season to start 10 of 12 games, and recorded 31 tackles. Blackwood, who drew the starting assignment 26 times during his career at Rutgers, started the final 11 games at right tackle for the Scarlet Knights.
Offensive lineman MIKE ESPOSITO (Manalapan, NJ) was the recipient of the Touchdown Club Award, presented annually to the senior whose performance, leadership and dedication on and off the field during his varsity career had the greatest impact on Rutgers football. Esposito was one of the most versatile linemen for the Knights and started the last three games.
This year’s recipient of the George T. Cronin Award, donated by the Class of 1931 and given annually to the team's most improved player, was sophomore safety JARVIS JOHNSON (Miami, FL). Johnson started nine games at safety and was sixth on the team with 59 tackles. He also contributed one interception.
Senior wide receivers SEAN CARTY (Somerville, NJ) and AARON MARTIN (Ringwood, NJ) were co-recipients of the Loyal Knight Award, presented by the Rutgers Alumni Association and given to the player or players who distinguished themselves by sacrificing personal goals for the team, and for whose character and dedication proved resilient in the pursuit of excellence. Martin was second on the team with 30 receptions, while Carty had two catches and also served as the Scarlet Knights’ holder for field goal and extra point attempts.
Senior punter MIKE BARR (Lynchburg, VA) was the recipient of the 12th Man Award donated by Ron Kish and presented annually to the player who has made a significant contribution to the enhancement of Rutgers football through his effort on special teams. Barr led Rutgers in punting with 92 punts and a 40.3 yard average. He had a season-high 60-yard punt, and also dropped 29 inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Defensive lineman GREG PYSZCZYMUKA (Newton, NJ) was the recipient of the Senior Scholar Athlete Award, given by Jo Rademacher. Pyszczymuka battled back from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the seven of the first eight games of the season to finish with 17 tackles and one sack. Pyszczymuka was a starter throughout the 2001 season, and drew 22 starts throughout his career.
The Fan-ees Award, presented by one of the oldest support groups in the nation to the player they recognize as the most improved senior, was given to wide receiver JOSH HOBBS (Somerville, NJ). Hobbs enoyed an outstanding senior season with a career high 27 catches for 324 yards.
Sophomore tight end CHRIS LOOMIS (Maple Shade, NJ) was presented the Kevin
and Helen Collins Academic Improvement Award, given to the student-athlete on
the football team who has shown the greatest academic improvement. Loomis contributed
11 receptions for 110 and one TD in 2002.
2002 AWARDS CAPSULE
Homer Hazel Trophy -- Team MVP: LB - Gary Brackett
Most Valuable Player – Offense: TE - L.J. Smith
Most Valuable Player – Defense: DB - Shawn Seabrooks
Most Valuable Player – Special Teams: CB – Nate Jones
Touchdown Club Trophy OL – Mike Esposito
David Bender Trophies – Top Offensive/Defensive Linemen: DT – Will Burnett
OT – Howard Blackwood
George T. Cronin Trophy – Most Improved Player: S – Jarvis Johnson
Loyal Knight Award: WR – Sean Carty
WR – Aaron Martin
12th Man Award: P – Mike Barr
Fan-ees Award: WR – Josh Hobbs
Collins Academic Improvement Award: TE - Chris Loomis
Senior Scholar-Athlete Award: DL – Greg Pyszczymuka
2002 Rutgers Football Letterwinners
Fourth-year letterwinners: P Mike Barr, LB Steve Berson, OL Howard Blackwood, LB Gary Brackett, WR Sean Carty, LB Mitchell Davis, OL Mike Esposito, WR Josh Hobbs, WR Aaron Martin, DL Greg Pyszczymuka, TE L.J. Smith, DB DeWayne Thompson.
Third-year letterwinners LB Brian Bender, DL Will Burnett, DB Vaughn Calhoun, CB Brandon Haw, LB Brian Hohmann, DL Ron Jenerette, DB Nate Jones, LB Nate Leonard, OL Rich McManis, OL Marty Pyszczymuka, S Shawn Seabrooks
Second-year letterwinners WR Jerry Andre, TE Bryan Boehrer, FB Cedric Brown, LB Jeremy Campbell, OL Trohn Carswell, DL Davon Clark, QB Ryan Cubit, OL Rob Dinsmore, OL Brian Duffy, DL Gary Gibson, DB Jason Grant, DB Eddie Grimes, DB Jarvis Johnson, TE Chris Loomis, DL Ryan Neill, DL Raheem Orr, DL Alfred Peterson, FB Ray Pilch, K Ryan Sands, QB Ted Trump, OL Mike Williamson.
First -year letterwinners: DB Dondre Asberry, WR Chris Baker, DE Val Barnaby, WR Corey Barnes, LB Terry Bynes, K Mike Cortese, RB Markis Facyson, LB Will Gilkison, QB Ryan Hart, DB Aaron Krause, TE Keith Landi, OL Sameeh McDonald, LB Ishmael Medley, RB Jason Nugent, RB Clarence Pittman, DL Luis Rivas, WR Shawn Tucker, WR Bryan Wilson.