JONESBORO — Arkansas State senior safety Sterling Young and junior cornerback Rocky Hayes have both been named to the 2014 Jim Thorpe Award Watch List, comprised of 39 elite collegiate defensive backs from across the nation.
The Jim Thorpe Award was established in 1986 and is part of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses some of the most prestigious awards in college football. With their selection, Young and Hayes become the first two A-State teammates to ever be named to the same major preseason award watch list during the same season.
Hayes and Young also join former safety Tyrell Johnson as A-State players who have been named to the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List. Johnson earned a place on the list in 2007, the same year he was named the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Defensive Player of the Year.
Young was named second team All-Sun Belt last season after posting a career-high 80 tackles, two interceptions, two pass break-ups and three fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown. His five combined turnovers gained led the team, and he was named the SBC Defensive Player of the Week on Nov. 4 after recording nine tackles and an interception in a victory over South Alabama.
The Hoover, Ala. native ranked third on the team and first among defensive backs in tackles, while also ranking ninth in the nation in fumbles recovered and 15th in the SBC in tackles. He is listed No. 6 on Lindy’s 2014 “Top 10 NFL Talent” in the Sun Belt Conference and is a preseason first team all-conference choice by Sporting News, Lindy’s, Athlon Sports, USA Today Sports and Phil Steele’s.
Hayes, a 2013 second team All-Sun Belt choice, ranked second in the league and tied for 43rd in the nation in passes defended (13 for a 1.0 average per game) last season as a sophomore. He also ranked tied for sixth in the SBC in interceptions with three, which led the team. Hayes ranked seventh on the team, but first among corners, with a career-high 46 tackles as well.
The Heflin, Ala., native was named the Sun Belt’s “Best Cover Corner” by this year’s Lindy’s preseason football publication, and he is also a 2014 preseason first team all-conference selection by Sporting News, Lindy’s, Athlon Sports, USA Today Sports and Phil Steele’s.