CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (UI Release) - University of Illinois seniors Tommy Davis and Terry Hawthorne were named to the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, the Louisville Sports Commission announced Thursday. The award, now in its third season, is given to the most versatile player in major college football. Illinois is one of four schools with two or more players selected to the watch list, along with USC (three), Mississippi State (two) and Oregon (two).
Hawthorne was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2011 while seeing time as a cornerback and punt returner. He also is expected to play some snaps at receiver in 2012. Last season, Hawthorne started 11 games and played in all 13, leading the Illini with three interceptions and sharing the Big Ten lead with 11 passes defended. He was named defensive player of the game at the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl after his game-changing 39-yard interception return for touchdown late in the third quarter. He also returned four punts for 37 yards in the bowl game after returning only one punt all season prior to that.
Davis joins the Illini after playing three seasons at Northern Illinois, where he was one of the top kick returners in the Mid-American Conference and a leading defensive back for the Huskies. He ended his NIU career ranked third in school history with 1,398 career kickoff return yards and eighth in career punt return yardage (331), and returned kickoffs for touchdown in 2009 and 2010. He also started 19 games at defensive back over the past two seasons, compiling 111 tackles.
Illinois now has had seven players named to a total of 17 different watch lists heading into the 2012 campaign, as Davis and Hawthorne join junior linebacker Jonathan Brown, senior defensive end Michael Buchanan, senior center Graham Pocic, junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and junior defensive tackle Akeem Spence on the list of Illini earning preseason honors.
The Paul Hornung Award is named for the 1956 Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame and NFL MVP for the Green Bay Packers. A national selection committee comprised of 16 sports journalists and former NFL stars vote on the award, with an online fan vote accounting for a 17th vote. Online fan voting begins in late September, with finalists being selected in early December. The winner will be announced in early January.