Babers, Vasher named to Thorpe Award watch list
AUSTIN, Texas -- University of Texas senior cornerback Rod Babers (Houston, Texas) and junior cornerback Nathan Vasher (Texarkana, Texas) were named to the Thorpe Award's preseason watch list, the Jim Thorpe Association announced on Wednesday. The annual award honors the nation's outstanding defensive back.
Babers, a 2001 second-team All-Big 12 selection by the Houston Chronicle, enters his final season as a Longhorn having started a team-high 25 consecutive games. He is coming off a junior campaign that saw him set career highs in tackles (40) and pass breakups (17, T-No. 8 on UT's single-season chart). The 5-foot-10, 187-pounder has 28 career PBUs and needs only four more to crack into UT's all-time top 10 list. Babers also has picked off three passes during his career, two of which have been returned for touchdowns.
Vasher enters his third year at UT as one of the nation's most explosive players. He is coming of a sophomore season that saw him earn second-team All-Big 12 honors as both a kick returner and defensive back and the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder also earned third-team All-America recognition as a kick returner from The Sporting News. Vasher, who tied UT's single-season record with seven interceptions, registered 56 tackles (41 solo), two TFLs and 18 pass breakups (T-No. 6 on UT's single-season chart) a year ago. He also ranked sixth nationally with 15.0-yard punt return average (No. 3 on UT's single-season list) and had six returns of 30 or more yards. His 554 punt return yards eclipsed Johnnie Johnson's UT record of 538 set in 1977.
Ten semifinalists will selected during the first week of November and three finalists will be announced on the Monday, Nov. 25. This year's winner will be crowned on Dec. 12 at the ESPN College Football Awards Show in Orlando, Fla., and the formal presentation will occur on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2003, in Oklahoma City.
The award is named after Jim Thorpe, who is widely considered one of the best defensive backs in college football history. Conceived by former Oklahoma City talk show host Ed Sossen and W. Lynne Draper (Jim Thorpe Association's executive director), the award was created in 1986 as a way to honor the nation's top defensive back and to do something positive to promote the state of Oklahoma. Winners are judged on their performance on the field, athletic ability and character.
Last year, cornerback Quentin Jammer became UT's first-ever Thorpe Award finalist. Oklahoma strong safety Roy Williams was the 2001 recipient of the award.
2002 Thorpe Award preseason watch list