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Mississippi’s Top College Football Player in 2016 to Be Chosen From Among 10 Finalists

Ole Miss’ Evan Engram and Mississippi State’s Fred Ross vie to become first tight end or wide receiver to win top college gridiron honor in Magnolia State

Fan voting, which influences 10 percent of the award total, starts today via social media and text message

Jackson, Miss. - (November 22, 2016) – Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram, one of eight semifinalists for the Mackey Award honoring the nation’s top tight end, and Mississippi State wide receiver Fred Ross, one of top wide outs in the country, lead a list of 10 nominees for the 2016 C Spire Conerly Trophy, which annually honors the top college football player in the Magnolia State.

Engram, the leading tight end in college football with 926 yards receiving and eight touchdowns, and Ross, who leads the SEC in touchdown catches, join finalists from eight other schools vying for the coveted award, which is named after College Football Hall of Famer Charlie Conerly, who also starred for the New York Giants.

The other eight finalists are Southern Miss running back Ito Smith, Mississippi Valley State quarterback Austin Bray, Mississippi College wide receiver Marcel Newson, Alcorn State linebacker Darien Anderson, Millsaps College defensive lineman Alex Foust, Belhaven University quarterback Hunter McEachern, Jackson State defensive end Javancy Jones and Delta State running back Chris Robinson.

For the fourth time in the award’s 21-year history, fan voting will count for 10 percent of the award and a panel of statewide sports media will make up the remaining 90 percent. Fan voting begins today 8:30 a.m. CST and conclude on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 12 noon CST. Just as the media voters do, fans will vote for a first place, second place and third place winner. Fans will be able to vote by Facebook, Twitter and via text messaging. Fans may submit up to three votes per day during the voting period; however, only one entry is allowed per day for each of the social media methods. For entry rules, qualifications and to vote, go to www.csopavoting.com.

“Football fans across Mississippi are very passionate about their schools and the star players in their respective programs. We are excited to give fans the ability once again to help influence who wins the C Spire Conerly Trophy,” said Jim Richmond, vice president of Corporate Communications for C Spire.

The 2016 C Spire Conerly Trophy finalists, in alphabetical order, include:

  • Darien Anderson, Alcorn: Anderson, a senior linebacker from Miami, Florida, leads the Braves with 80 tackles, including 47 solo and 17 tackles for loss. He led the team and the SWAC in quarterback sacks with 10 and registered one fumble recovery during his stellar season and is on the Buck Buchanan watch list for best FCS defensive player of the year.
  • Austin Bray, Mississippi Valley State: Bray, a junior quarterback Kingsburg, California, has completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,462 yards and eight touchdowns. He has also rushed for four touchdowns.
  • Evan Engram, Ole Miss: Engram, a senior from Powder Springs, Georgia, leads the nation in yards per game and total yards for tight ends with 84.2, which is also tops in the SEC.
  • Javancy Jones, Jackson State: Jones, a senior defensive end from Noxubee County, led the Tigers tackles, solo tackles and recorded 17.5 tackles for loss with four sacks and one touchdown reception. Jones, also nominated in 2015, was the SWAC's Freshman of the Year in 2013 and led the Tigers in tackles as a sophomore with 108.
  • Alex Foust, Millsaps: Foust, a senior defensive lineman from Ackerman, was one of the leading sack specialists in Southern Athletic Association in 9.5 sacks (second) and a team-leading 42 tackles, including 15.5 tackles for loss. He had one of his best games of the year against Sewanee, recording 7 tackles and two sacks.
  • Hunter McEachern, Belhaven: McEachern, a freshman quarterback from Keller, Texas, set school single season records for pass attempts (574), completions (337) while throwing for 3,722 yards (second in school history) and 31 touchdowns. He also rushed for another 144 yards and three touchdowns in addition to averaging 37.5 yards as the team’s punter in 2016. McEachern recorded eight 300 yard passing games, including a single-game season high of 513 yards.
  • Marcel Newson, Mississippi College: Newson, a junior wide receiver from Coldwater who was also nominated in 2015, led the Gulf South Conference and ranks fifth nationally in all-purpose yards with 180.6 per game. He also led the conference in receiving yards with 94.8 yards a game and is third in the conference with a kickoff return average of 27.3 yards and a punt return average of 15.5 yards for the Choctaws.
  • Chris Robinson, Delta State: Robinson, a junior running back from Bude, led the Gulf South Conference and the nation in touchdowns scored in NCAA Division II with 24 this season. He totaled 19 rushing touchdowns and added 5 receiving scores. He rushed for 976 yards and caught 37 passes for 551 yards.
  • Fred Ross, Mississippi State: Ross, a senior from Tyler, Texas, has shattered four Bulldog career records this season for catches (194), consecutive games with a catch (33), 100-yard receiving games (10) and receiving yards (2,446). He leads the SEC in receiving touchdowns with 11, second in the league in catches (67) and third in yards (835).
  • Ito Smith, Southern Miss: Smith, a junior from Semmes, Ala., is rewriting the USM record books for rushing and scoring statistics. Smith has rushed for 1,194 yards and 15 touchdowns this year, which is tied for 7th nationally in scoring. He has six 100 yard rushing games this year and ranks third all-time in single-season rushing yards for the Golden Eagles.

Past winners of the C Spire Conerly Trophy have included such former and current prominent future NFL standouts as Dak Prescott, Deuce McAllister, Eli Manning, Jerious Norwood, Michael Boley, Patrick Willis, Anthony Dixon and many others. Prescott, who is the rookie starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys this year, and Manning are the only two-time winners in the award’s 21 year history.

The C Spire Conerly Trophy banquet is nearing a sellout, but still has limited seating for the Nov. 29 program at the Clarksdale Country Club. A 5:30 p.m. reception will be followed by the 6:30 p.m. dinner program and trophy presentation. Coaches and finalists from all the schools are expected to attend. Tickets are $100 each. For availability or more information, go to msfame.com or call 601.982.8264.

Now in its 21th year, the Conerly Trophy presented by C Spire is named after the late Charlie Conerly – the only football inductee in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame who was an All-American at a Mississippi university, an NFL rookie of the year and NFL All-Pro member and quarterbacked a team to a world championship. C Spire has sponsored the outstanding player awards program for all major college sports in Mississippi since 1998.

About C Spire
C Spire is a diversified telecommunications and technology services company that provides premium experiences designed specifically for its customers, including wireless communications, high-speed Internet access and a range of other telecommunications products and services to consumers and businesses. This news release and other announcements are available at www.cspire.com/news. For more information about C Spire, visit www.cspire.com or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cspire or Twitter at www.twitter.com/cspire.