As a prologue to Florida State's season-punctuating Gator Bowl football victory over West Virginia, the top performers of the 2009 campaign - on and off the field - were honored at Saturday night's banquet in the Union Ballroom.
Quarterback Christian Ponder and linebacker Nigel Bradham received the Most Valuable Player awards for offense and defense, respectively, on a night filled with highlights including a video tribute to retired coach Bobby Bowden. The banquet, sponsored by the FSU Varsity Club, was aptly titled: "Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future."
As is tradition, the FSU seniors were recognized individually at the outset of the program.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher capped the occasion by addressing the audience with his view of the program's future.
Still, the spotlight shined brightest on the players who were honored for their efforts on the field as well as the classroom. Three special awards were among the first to be presented. Defensive end Markus White and center Ryan McMahon, a pair of juniors, were recognized as co-winners of the Bob Crenshaw Award, which recognizes the players with the biggest heart. Presented by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club, the award honors its namesake former Seminole, who was killed in a military plane crash.
Senior defensive tackle Budd Thacker and sophomore offensive tackle Andrew Datko were co-recipients of the Don Powell Award, presented by the Orlando Seminole Club to the unsung heroes of the football team. Ponder was the recipient of the Bill McGrotha Humanitarian Award, named for the late Tallahassee Democrat writer who chronicled the first 40 years of FSU football.
Senior defensive tackle Kendrick Stewart and senior tight end Caz Piurowski were recognized with the Warrior Awards for defense and offense, respectively, while Datko was named the team's top conditioned athlete. Freshman wide receiver Josh Gehres was selected as the Offensive Scout Team MVP, while freshman defensive end Dan Hicks and senior defensive back Jeff Taccetta were recognized as Defensive Scout Team co-MVPs.
Freshman running back Lonnie Pryor and cornerback Greg Reid were selected as the Top Newcomers on offense and defense, respectively. Defensive tackle Moses McCray and linebacker Kendall Smith shared defensive honors as Most Improved, while senior wide receiver Rod Owens captured the offensive award. Owens was also selected Special Teams MVP (offense), with junior linebacker Mister Alexander picked up the honor among defensive players.
The Defensive Leadership Award was presented to senior linebacker Dekoda Watson and senior free safety Jamie Robinson, while the Offensive Leadership Award went to Rodney Hudson and Ponder. Ponder, Robinson and linebacker Recardo Wright were selected as the three permanent captains following a vote of their teammates.
Florida State's Academic Support unit singled out the most outstanding student-athletes in the classroom by class designation and added an academic commitment award for each class as well. The academic award recipients were:
Offense - Wide receiver Josh Gehres
Defense - Safety Justin Bright
Special Teams - Kicker Dustin Hopkins
Commitment - Running back Lonnie Pryor
Offense - Quarterback EJ Manuel
Defense - Punter Shawn Powell
Commitment - Running back Jermaine Thomas
Offense - Guard Rodney Hudson
Defense - Cornerback Dionte Allen
Commitment - Linebacker Kendall Smith
Offense - Quarterback Christian Ponder
Defense - Linebacker Daniel Parvin
Commitment - Defensive tackle Budd Thacker
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