BROOMFIELD — Senior tailback Rodney Stewart was named by his University of Colorado teammates as the Buffaloes’ 2011 Most Valuable Player, highlighting the team’s annual senior banquet Sunday at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield.
Stewart led the team in rushing with 854 yards, becoming the first player in school history to lead the team in four seasons, which he did in consecutive years. He also led the team in receptions with 45, gaining 571 yards; he was the first player in the nation (and just one of three) to have 500 yards rushing and receiving in 2011, and became just the 12th player in CU history to have 500 of each for a career. His 1,686 all-purpose yards were the sixth-most in a season at Colorado, despite the fact that he missed the better part of four games with knee and ankle injuries.
He missed most of the second half in CU’s season finale at Utah with a sprained ankle, thwarting his effort to become the 27th player in the NCAA (FBS) history to have 3,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards in a career. Otherwise, Stewart made an indelible mark on CU record book, finishing with 809 rushing attempts (first), 3,598 yards (second), 25 rushing touchdowns (10th), 150 points (tied for 18th) and 16 100-yard games (second). He was first in receptions by a running back with 93 (tied for 14th overall) for 969 yards (first by a running back, 26th overall), while amassing 3,635 yards of total offense (11th), 4,567 yards from scrimmage (first) and 4,828 all-purpose yards (first).
Senior wide receiver Toney Clemons and senior quarterback Tyler Hansen were named the John Mack Award winners as the team’s most outstanding players on offense. Clemons was second in receptions (45) but first in receiving yards (680), with team-bests of 15.8 yards per receptions and eight touchdowns. He was on fire the last five games of the season, catching 25 balls for 476 yards (19.0 per), with five touchdowns. He closes his career with three 100-yard games in his last four, and with 86 receptions (tie-18th), 1,162 yards (17th, just four yards behind CU head coach Jon Embree in 16th); and 11 touchdown catches (tie-9th).
Hansen threw for 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns, completing 56.1 percent of his passes in starting 12 of 13 games this year. Those were the second-most passing yards in a single season at CU, as were his 2,998 yards of total offense, trailing only Koy Detmer’s 1996 numbers in both. He finished in the top five in five major passing categories: 872 attempts (third), 505 completions (third), 5,705 yards (fourth), 35 TD passes (fourth), 6,183 yards of total offense (fourth). He also tied the school record for the most 200-yard passing games in a season with nine in 2011.
Senior outside linebacker Josh Hartigan and junior defensive tackle Will Pericak shared the Dave Jones Award as the team’s outstanding defensive players. Hartigan led the Buffaloes in sacks for the second straight season, recording eight, which gave him 15 for his career, tying him for 12th all-time with his position coach, Kanavis McGhee. Overall, he had 31 tackles, 24 solo and 10 for losses, with seven hurries, three third down stops and a pass broken up. Pericak was fourth on the team in tackles with 64 (33 solo, two for losses), with a team-high eight hurries. He also had five third down stops, three tackles for zero, two passes broken up, a caused interception and a blocked kick, a PAT try by Cal, the first blocked by a CU player since 2005.
The Lee Willard Award for the most outstanding freshman went to cornerback Greg Henderson, who played in all 13 games, started 12, with his 823 snaps from scrimmage being the most any true freshman has ever played in a single season at Colorado. He had 58 tackles, seventh most on the team that included 44 solo, three for losses and a quarterback sack, along with a team-high nine passes broken up, six third down stops, four touchdown saves, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.
Three players also earned the Dean Jacob Van Ek Award for academic achievement; senior offensive lineman Blake Behrens and senior defensive backs Anthony Perkins and Travis Sandersfeld shared the honor. Behrens finished requirements to graduate last May with a B.S. degree in both Finance and Accounting and added a second major, Economics. Sandersfeld (3.38) is majoring in Business-Finance while Perkins graduated with a degree in Integrative Physiology last December and has been working toward a second in History.
The coaching staff reduced the number of team awards from 20 to five, but did not rule out renewing some in the future or transferring to the spring.
In all, 70 players earned letters this season, including all 28 seniors and 25 cited as first-year lettermen with 15 of those players true freshmen. The breakdown included 32 players on offense, 33 on defense and five specialists.
The complete list of CU award winners announced Sunday; the most valuable player was selected by the players and all others by the coaching staff:
Zack Jordan Award (most valuable player, selected by teammates): TB Rodney Stewart
John Mack Award (outstanding offensive player): WR Toney Clemons, QB Tyler Hansen
Dave Jones Award (outstanding defensive player): OLB Josh Hartigan, DT Will Pericak
Lee Willard Award (outstanding freshman): CB Greg Henderson
Dean Jacob Van Ek Award (academic excellence): OL Blake Behrens, SS Anthony Perkins, CB Travis Sandersfeld
Best Interview (selected by team beat media): WR Toney Clemons
Buffalo Heart Award (selected by “the fans behind the bench”): TB Rodney Stewart