C-Spire Connerly Trophy

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown and Southern Miss running back Ito Smith are among the 10 candidates for the C Spire Conerly Trophy, to be presented the evening of Nov. 28 at the Jackson Hilton.

The award goes annually to Mississippi’s best college football player. Archie Manning will be the featured speaker.

Fitzgerald has led Mississippi State to an 8-3 record, throwing for 1,770 yards and 15 touchdowns and running for 966 yards and 14 more scores. He has led the Bulldogs to a 32.5 points per game output.

Brown leads the Southeastern Conference in pass receiving with 69 catches for 1,085 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In his USM career, Smith has rushed for 4,294 yards and caught passes for another 1,408 yards. He has accounted for 48 touchdowns. Smith has been terrific in his senior season, running for 1,171 yards and nearly six yards per carry, including three for 80 yards or more.

Each of the state’s 10 four-year playing colleges Monday named their finalists for the award, which goes annually to the best college football player in the state. Other finalists include: Alcorn State running back De’Lance Turner (1,262 yards), Jackson State linebacker Shawn Bishop, Delta State running back Chris Robinson, Millsaps linebacker Jacob Kendall and defensive backs Chris Manning of Mississippi College and Mark Pegues of Mississippi Valley State.

Conerly voting consists of a statewide media panel (90 percent) and fan voting conducted by C Spire (10 percent).

The Entergy Kent Hull Offensive Lineman of the Year Award also will also be awarded Nov. 28 at the Hilton. That award is chosen by a panel of pro scouts and ex-coaches.

The program at the Jackson Hilton will include a 5:30 p.m. reception and 6:30 p.m. awards banquet. Tickets must be purchased in advance from the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum (601 982-8264).


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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.