Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
Cherocci Nominated for 2013 Burlsworth Trophy
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Junior linebacker Justin Cherocci has been named a nominee for the Burlsworth Trophy, an award presented to the most outstanding collegiate football player who began his career as a walk-on.

Cherocci came to CMU as a preferred walk-on following a standout prep career at Brother Rice High School during which he led the state of Michigan in tackles as a junior (193) and senior (220). After redshirting at CMU in 2010 and seeing limited action in 2011, the Rochester Hills native secured a starting spot as a sophomore and quickly established himself as an anchor of the CMU defense and one of the top linebackers in the MAC.

In 2012, Cherocci earned CMU Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors, leading the team and ranking fifth in the MAC and 19th nationally with 132 total tackles. He also led the nation is assisted tackles with 89. Cherocci recorded double-digit tackles in seven games and was CMU’s leading tackler in six. Following the season, he was awarded a scholarship.

This season, though 10 games, Cherocci ranks second on the team with 99 total tackles, including 8.5 for a loss, and first with 4.0 sacks. His average of 9.9 tackles per game ranks second in the MAC behind only teammate and fellow Brother Rice grad Shamari Benton. In week two, Cherocci dominated versus New Hampshire, collecting a game-high 13 tackles and forcing two fumbles, including one late in the game that would set up CMU’s game-winning field goal. He tied for the team-lead with 11 tackles at UNLV, including 2.5 for a loss, and then equaled a career high with 15 stops versus Toledo. Versus NIU, Cherocci recorded his first career interception to go along with 11 tackles.

The trophy is named in honor of Brandon Burlsworth, who walked on to the Arkansas Razorbacks in 1994, worked his way to being a three-year starter and was eventually named an All-American in 1998. Burlsworth was selected as the 63rd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL Draft but was killed in a car accident 11 days later. The Burlsworth Foundation was created in his memory and supports the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular those children that have limited opportunities.

“The 2013 class of Burlsworth Trophy nominees are an outstanding group of young men,” said Marty Burlsworth, CEO and founder of the Burlsworth Foundation and brother of Brandon. “They represent their schools well and embody everything that the Burlsworth Trophy stands for: hard word, dedication and a commitment to excellence.”

Central Michigan (4-6, 3-3) will kick off a two-game home stand to finish out the regular season on Saturday when it hosts UMass (1-9, 1-5) at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The cross-divisional MAC contest is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff and will be broadcast on ESPN3. The Chippewas defeated the Minutemen last season, 42-21, in Foxboro, Mass. in the only other meeting between the two programs.