DALLAS, Texas – Ball State cornerback Antonio Phillips had a breakout season last fall and as a result is getting plenty of preseason accolades thrown his way this month.
His name was highlighted on a third national preseason watch list Tuesday as one of 98 defensive standouts from 66 schools on the initial list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.
Phillips, a senior from St. Louis, Missouri, intercepted four passes and was a first-team All-Mid-American Conference choice in 2019. He was the first Cardinal cornerback to earn first-team all-league honors in 11 years. Phillips was earlier named to the preseason watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player regardless of position, and Jim Thorpe Award, honoring the nation’s top defensive back.
As a team, Ball State led the MAC last season with 24 takeaways, including 15 interceptions. The Cardinals return seven defensive starters in 2020.
The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) has chosen a National Defensive Player of the Year since 1993. In 1995, the FWAA named the award in honor of the legendary two-way player from Minnesota. Nagurski dominated college football, then became a star for professional football’s Chicago Bears in the 1930s. Bronislaw “Bronko” Nagurski is a charter member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
The FWAA, in conjunction with the Charlotte Touchdown Club, may add or remove players from the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list during the course of the season. As in previous years, the FWAA will announce a National Defensive Player of the Week each Tuesday this season. If not already on the watch list, each week’s honored player will be added at that time.
The winner of the Nagurski Trophy will be chosen from five finalists. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the association’s full membership, selects a 26-man All-America Team and eventually the Nagurski Trophy finalists. Committee members, by individual ballot, select the winner they regard as the best defensive player in college football.
The Nagurski Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935.
Ball State returns 16 total starters this fall from a 2019 team that contended late into the season for a MAC West Division title and won key rivalry games over Northern Illinois and league-champion Miami.