STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Junior Nick Fitzgerald and sophomore Jeffery Simmons were selected semifinalists for the Maxwell Award and Bednarik Award, respectively, on Monday as the Maxwell Football Club released its full list of semifinalists for the national honors.
Mississippi State was one of six schools to have a semifinalist named to both awards. It is the first time that MSU has had semifinalists for both honors in the same season since Dak Prescott and Benardrick McKinney were selected to the Maxwell Award and Bednarik Award semifinalist lists, respectively, during the 2014 season.
Since 1937, the Maxwell Award has been given annually to “America’s College Player of the Year.” Fitzgerald becomes the first Bulldog named a semifinalist for the award since Prescott in 2015. He is one of four players from the Southeastern Conference to make the cut of 18 semifinalists.
The Richmond Hill, Ga., native has proven to be one of the best duel-threat quarterbacks in the nation. He leads MSU in rushing with 686 yards on the ground, which is the most by an SEC quarterback this season and ranks sixth amongst the league. He averages 83.2 yards per game and 6.7 yards per carry. He also leads the team with 10 rushing scores, which is tops amongst SEC quarterbacks and good for second in the conference.
Fitzgerald has turned in four 100-yard rushing outings this season to bring his career total to 12, which sets the MSU and the SEC record for most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback. He also became just the sixth quarterback in SEC history to rush for over 2,000 yards with 2,168 over his career.
Through the air, Fitzgerald has gone 119-for-209 (56.9 percent) for 1,320 yards during his junior campaign. He has thrown for 13 touchdowns over the first eight games of the season, which already has Fitzgerald ranked in a tie for ninth in MSU single-season history. In total this season, Fitzgerald has accounted for 2,006 yards of offense and 23 total touchdowns. His efforts have won SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors twice this season to bring his career total to four, which ranks second to Prescott’s school-record five selections.
Over his career, Fitzgerald has been responsible for 63 total touchdowns; and earlier this season, he joined Prescott as the only players in school history to rush for 25 career touchdowns and pass for 25 career touchdowns. He currently ranks tied for third in school history with 29 career rushing touchdowns and fourth with 37 career passing scores.
The Chuck Bednarik Award was created by the Maxwell Football Club in honor of college football and NFL Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik and is presented to the top defensive player across college football. Simmons is just one of three semifinalists from the SEC and is the first Bulldog to be name a semifinalist for the award since McKinney in 2014.
Simmons has dominated the defensive line for the Bulldogs this season with 36 total tackles over Mississippi State's first eight contests. The Macon, Miss., native has racked up 6.0 tackles for loss for a total loss of 29 yards, which includes a career-best 3.5 sacks. Defensively, he has forced two fumbles and recovered one while tallying two blocks on special teams, which ranks Simmons in a tie for first across the nation.
Semifinalist voting for both awards will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 31 and will close on Sunday, Nov. 19. Three finalists for each award will be announced on Monday, Nov. 20 and a second round of voting will take place at that time. Eligible voters include Maxwell Football Club members, NCAA head football coaches, sports information directors and selected national media.
The winners of the 81st Maxwell Award and the 23rd Chuck Bednarik Award will be announced as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards show, which will be broadcasted live on ESPN on Dec. 7, 2017.