Liberty’s Durrell Johnson named to Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List
Johnson is one of 90 FBS players named to the 2021 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch list. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is presented annually to the national defensive player of the year, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
This year’s watch list includes 90 defensive standouts from 61 schools and 10 FBS conferences plus independents.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner will be chosen from five finalists and honored at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet presented by LendingTree on December 6 at the Charlotte Convention Center.
This is the second preseason defensive player of the year award watch list for Johnson. Last week, Johnson was named to the 2021 Chuck Bednarik Award watch list.
During his first season with the Flames, Johnson posted a team-leading 11.5 tackles for a loss (74 yards) and 8.5 sacks (65 yards). The junior college transfer ranked No. 28 in the country in sacks per game (0.77).
The native of Baltimore, Md., also finished 2020 with 38 tackles (25 solo, 13 assisted), fourth most on the team. He added six quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and an interception, helping Liberty rank No. 11 nationally in total defense (317.7 yards allowed per game).
The winners of the 2021 Bednarik Award will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show on December 9, 2021. The formal presentations of the Maxwell Award will be made at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala hosted by Tropicana Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on March 11, 2022.
Johnson helped Liberty to a season of “firsts” in 2020, including the team’s first-ever national ranking, first win over an ACC opponent, the best start in school history (8-0 to start 2020), first-ever win over a top-25 FBS program and back-to-back bowl game wins.
Liberty defeated a pair of ACC foes in Syracuse and in-state opponent Virginia Tech. The two wins made Liberty the first non-Power 5 team to post a pair of wins over ACC schools in the same season since Houston in 2015.
The Flames finished the season with a 10-1 mark, tying the program’s record for wins in a season (Liberty finished the 2008 season with a 10-2 record).
Liberty finished the campaign ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 18 in the Amway Coaches Poll, the highest year-ending FBS rankings in school history.
Liberty capped off the 2020 season with a thrilling 37-34 overtime win over No. 9/11 Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl on Dec. 26 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. The win marked Liberty’s first-ever victory over a FBS top-25 ranked program.
With the Cure Bowl win over its former Big South rivals, Liberty became the second transitioning team in NCAA history to win consecutive bowl games during its first two full seasons at the FBS level.\