Football Honors Postseason Award Winners
Courtesy: CMU Athletic Communications
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – The Central Michigan football program recognized its annual award winners during its postseason awards banquet on Sunday.Junior wide receiver Titus Davis was presented with the program's top on-field honor, receiving the Herb Deromedi Most Valuable Player Award. A First Team All-MAC selection, Davis had his best year statistically in 2013. A preseason Biletnikoff Award nominee, Davis led CMU with 61 receptions and finished second in the MAC with 1,109 receiving yards, marking his first career 1,000-yard season. His 18.2 yards per catch average led the conference and ranked third nationally among receivers with 60 or more catches. Davis recorded six 100-yard receiving games in 2013, including totaling a season-high 187 yards in front of national television audience versus Ball State, giving him 11 for his career.
Davis holds a prominent place in the CMU record book, appearing in several statistical categories. His 2013 receiving total ranks fifth while his touchdown total of eight, which he secured for the third-straight season, is sixth. He also ranks second in career touchdowns (24), sixth in yards (2,720) and 10th in receptions (144). Davis has also made his mark nationally, ranking No. 1 in the NCAA among active receivers with an 18.9 career yards per reception average.
Shamari Benton and Adam Fenton shared the Kurt Dobronski Award, presented annually by the seniors to a classmate who demonstrates great effort, intensity and appreciation for the football program. The award's namesake, Kurt Dobronski, was a two-time All-MAC linebacker and four-year letterman from 1978-81. He died in the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 in Detroit in 1987 at the age of 28.
Benton, who was also named CMU’s Defensive Player of the Year for 2013, recorded 100-plus tackles for the second consecutive season, totaling 111, which ranked third in the MAC. The team co-captain also led CMU and ranked seventh in the MAC with 10.5 tackles for loss. He reached double digits in tackles in seven games, including tying a career-high with 14 stops twice. Benton also recorded 2.0 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Fenton paved the way for leading rushers Saylor Lavallii and Zurlon Tipton from his fullback position and proved himself as a capable pass catcher, totaling a career-high eight receptions for 76 yards.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Cooper Rush was tabbed as CMU’s Offensive Player of the Year. Despite entering the season third on the depth chart, Rush started 10 contests, finishing fifth in the MAC in passing by averaging 213.5 yards per game. In his first career appearance, he entered the game in the second quarter and threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns, including a 97-yarder to Titus Davis, to rally Central to an early season win. Rush totaled 2,349 passing yards with 15 touchdowns in his first collegiate season.
Senior tight end A.J. Westendorp received the Academic Excellence Award. He graduated in May with a 3.96 grade point average, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical sciences and religion, and is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in public administration. Appearing in all 12 games this season, including a start versus Eastern Michigan, Westendorp saw action in CMU’s tight end rotation and was a cornerstone player on special teams, making four tackles.
Senior safety Avery Cunningham and senior running back Zurlon Tipton were named co-recipients of the Gridiron Gladiator award, given to the players who best exemplify great toughness and perseverance on the field and in the weight room.
A starter of 43 consecutive games, the second longest streak in the nation among safeties, Cunningham ranked third on the team in tackles with 76, including a team-high 49 solos, and had 2.0 sacks, four pass break-ups and one fumble recovery. On Senior Day, he put the finishing touches on a dominating win over Eastern Michigan, returning an interception 75 yards for a touchdown.
Tipton made a remarkable return to the line-up late in the year after suffering a broken ankle in the season opener versus Michigan. In the final four games, he rushed for 388 yards and eight touchdowns. Saving one of his best performances for his last at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Tipton ran roughshod over EMU on Senior Day, racking up 206 yards on the ground and tying a career high with four touchdowns.
Other award recipients included:
Special Teams Player of the Year: Richie Hogan and Kevin King
Offensive Upfront Player of the Year: Andy Phillips
Defensive Upfront Player of the Year: Jeremy Gainer and Justin Cherocci
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Connor Collins
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Tony Annese
Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Derek Edwards and Andrew Nowak
Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Joe Bacci
Plas Presnell Team Humorist Award: Adam Fenton
Diane Craven Unsung Hero Award: Connor Odykirk