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Mississippi’s Top College Football Player in 2017 To Be Named From Among 10 Finalists for the C Spire Conerly Trophy

Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald and Ole Miss’ A. J. Brown join eight others vying to win top college gridiron honor in Magnolia State

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

Jackson, Miss. - (November 20, 2017) – Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, and Ole Miss wide receiver A. J. Brown, one of top wide outs in the country, lead a list of 10 nominees for the 2017 C Spire Conerly Trophy, which annually honors the top college football player in the Magnolia State.

Fitzgerald, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in college football, and Brown, who leads the SEC in receiving yards and 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 defensive back Mark Pegues, Mississippi College defensive back Chris Manning, Alcorn State running back De’Lance Turner, Millsaps College linebacker Jacob Kendall, Belhaven University quarterback Hunter McEachern, Jackson State linebacker Shawn Bishop and Delta State running back Chris Robinson.

For the fifth time in the award’s 22-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 will begin tomorrow (Nov. 21) at 8:30 a.m. CST and conclude on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. CST.

Just as the media voters do, fans will vote for a first place, second place and third place winner on 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 Marketing for C Spire.

The 2017 C Spire Conerly Trophy finalists, in alphabetical order by school, include:

  • De’Lance Turner, Alcorn State: Turner, a senior running back from McClain, Mississippi, led the Braves in rushing with 1,262 yards, a 7.6 yards per carry average. He also scored a total of 11 touchdowns, including eight rushing and three receiving.
  • Hunter McEachern, Belhaven: McEachern, a sophomore quarterback from Keller, Texas, played in 8 games, completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 2,769 yards and 27 touchdowns. McEachern also was the school’s nominee in 2016.
  • Chris Robinson, Delta State: Robinson, a senior running back from Bude, Mississippi, recorded seven games with over 100 yards rushing. He totaled 17 rushing touchdowns and added two receiving scores. Robinson also was the school’s nominee in 2016.
  • Shawn Bishop, Jackson State: Bishop, a senior linebacker from Jackson, Mississippi, made 68 tackles with 25 solo tackles. He recorded 8.5 tackles for a loss and had 1.5 sacks along with a fumble recovery.
  • Jacob Kendall, Millsaps: Kendall, a senior linebacker from Navarre, Florida, recorded 16 solo and 16 assisted tackles during the season. He had 7.5 tackles for a loss and five quarterback sacks.
  • Chris Manning, Mississippi College: Manning, a senior defensive back from Section, Alabama, made 58 tackles, including 34 solo tackles, in 10 games. He also led the team with three interceptions.
  • Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State: Fitzgerald, a Richmond Hill, Georgia native, is a semifinalist for the 2017 Davey O’Brien Award, which honors the top quarterback in college football. He has passed for 1,770 yards and rushed for 1,025 yards and scored 29 touchdowns this year, including 15 rushing scores and 15 passing touchdowns.
  • Mark Pegues, Mississippi Valley State: Pegues, a senior defensive back from Oxford, Mississippi, made 41 tackles with two interceptions and 101 return yards.
  • A. J. Brown, Ole Miss: Brown, a sophomore wide receiver from Starkville, Mississippi, is a semifinalist for the 2017 Biletnikoff Award, which honors the top receiver in college football. He leads the SEC with 69 catches, 1,085 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
  • Ito Smith, Southern Miss: Smith, a senior from Semmes, Ala., averaged 106 yards rushing per game this year with a total of 1,226 yards. He scored 14 total touchdowns during the season, including 12 rushing and two receiving.

Past winners of the C Spire Conerly Trophy have included such former and current prominent future NFL standouts as Evan Engram, Dak Prescott, Deuce McAllister, Eli Manning, Jerious Norwood, Michael Boley, Patrick Willis, Anthony Dixon and many others. Prescott and Manning are the only two-time winners in the award’s 22 year history.

The C Spire Conerly Trophy presentation is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 28 at the Hilton Jackson, 1001 County Line Road, in Jackson. 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. For ticket availability or more information, go to msfame.com or call 601.982.8264. Former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints great Archie Manning will be the special guest speaker at the awards program.

Now in its 22nd 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 leading technology company committed to transforming Mississippi through the C Spire Tech Movement, which includes the massive deployment of broadband internet to homes and small businesses, a state-of-the-art digital experience for its customers and team members, technology innovation leadership and the creation and retention of a 21st century technology workforce in its region. The company provides world-class, customer-inspired wireless communications, 1 Gigabit consumer Internet access as well as a full suite of dedicated Internet, wireless, IP Voice, data and cloud services for 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.