University of Florida junior free safety Reggie Nelson (Melbourne, Fla.) was named one of 11 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award on Tuesday by the Jim Thorpe Award Screening Committee. The trophy is given annually to the nation’s top collegiate defensive back.
On the defensive side of the ball, Nelson has collected 35 tackles this season, intercepted four passes and recovered a pair of fumbles for the Gators. His four picks tie him for fourth in the Southeastern Conference, while his two interceptions against teams ranked in the AP top-25 are tied for the third-highest total in the nation.
Nelson is also a key contributor to Florida’s punt block and punt return units. In addition to blocking a punt in both the LSU and Vanderbilt games, he has gained 77 yards on 11 punt returns. Nelson’s average of 7.0 yards per return ranks seventh in the SEC.
The Melbourne, Fla., native was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 2 after an effort against Alabama in which he made five tackles, returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown, recovered a fumble at the end of a UF interception to retain possession for the Gators and broke up a pass. His on-field exploits have also earned him the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Defensive Player of the Half-Year honors, as well as a spot on CBS Sportsline’s Halfway All-America Team. Prior to the campaign, he was selected to the Preseason All-SEC first team by the league’s coaches, while also garnering second-team recognition from the media.
Nelson is the seventh Florida player to advance to the semifinal stage of the Thorpe Award’s voting process. Former UF standout Lawrence Wright was the 1996 recipient of the award, making him the only Gator to take home the honor. The last Florida player to make it past the first round of voting was Keiwan Ratliff, who was a finalist in 2003.
On Nov. 20, the Screening Committee will narrow the list to three finalists, each of whom will be invited to the nationally-televised ESPN College Football Awards Show on Dec. 7. The winner will be announced on the show, and the official presentation of the trophy will be made at a formal banquet in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Feb. 12, 2007.
* 2006 Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalists
* Antoine Cason * Arizona
* Leon Hall * Michigan
* Daymeion Hughes * California
* LaRon Landry * LSU
* Marcus McCauley * Fresno State
* REGGIE NELSON * FLORIDA
* Darrelle Revis * Pittsburgh
* Aaron Ross * Texas
* Antonio Smith * Ohio State
* Eric Weddle * Utah
* Tom Zbikowski * Notre Dame