Nov. 21, 1999
EVANSTON, Ill. - The Northwestern University football team announced its postseason awards Sunday afternoon at the team banquet, which was held at the Westin River North in downtown Chicago.
The Wildcats’ Most Valuable Player, by vote of the coaches, was sophomore linebacker Kevin Bentley (North Hills, Calif./Montclair Prep). One of the most feared players in the Big Ten, he led the conference in tackles throughout the campaign and finished the 1999 season with 148, which placed him seventh on the school’s single-season list. He also had a pair of interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The George Ballantine, Jr. Memorial Leadership Award, given to “the player who demonstrates the enthusiasm and leadership which exemplifies George’s contributions to NU football,” was awarded to senior tight end Jay Tant (Kettering, Ohio/Alter). He finished the season with 17 catches for 203 yards, placing third on the team in both categories.
The Thomas Airth Spirit Award, presented to “the football player whose spirit and enthusiasm has been an inspiration to teammates, coaches and fans throughout the season,” was given to defensive end Dwayne Missouri (San Antonio, Texas/Roosevelt). Missouri enjoyed a stellar season in the trenches, putting together a 13-game streak with at least one tackle for loss that dated back to last season. He ended the season with 52 tackles and led the Wildcats with 20 TFLs including five sacks.
The Carnig Minasian Citizenship Award, given to “the member of the football team who has been an outstanding citizen on campus, in practice, and on the field...in all aspects of campus life,” was awarded to senior defensive back Kyle Sanders (Jackson, Mich./Jackson). One of just 10 players who will depart this year, Sanders finished the season with 47 tackles and had a fumble recovery against Wisconsin. Originally a walk-on who also played baseball at Northwestern, Sanders started four contests in 1999.
The Marcel Price Award, given to “the player who best exhibits the enthusiasm and dedication to the Wildcat program and is symbolic of Marcel’s desire,” was awarded to defensive back Harold Blackmon (Chicago, Ill./Leo). With one season of eligibility left, Blackmon is already the school’s all-time leader with 26 passes broken up. He had 17 this year, which is also a school record. He also intercepted two passes (one for a touchdown against Indiana) and finished the season with 48 tackles.
First-year head coach Randy Walker introduced a new award, The Wildcat Warrior. This award will be presented to that player who “displayed the work ethic and investment that is needed to achieve greatness as a football player.” The inaugural winner was running back Damien Anderson (Wilmington, Ill./Wilmington), who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark this year with 1,128 yards. With two years still remaining, he is already seventh on the all-time rushing list with 1,665 yards.
The Northwestern Gridiron Network (NGN) Newcomer honors went to true freshman center Austin King (Cincinnati, Ohio/Purcell Marian) on offense and sophomore linebacker Billy Silva (San Diego, Calif./St. Augustine) on defense. King started each of the last nine games. Silva, meanwhile, had 83 tackles in the middle linebacker spot, fourth-best on the team.
Fifth-year senior captain Jeff Dyra, who missed the second half of the season with a broken left foot, was the speaker on behalf of the players at the banquet.