pSenior center Ben Hamilton and junior wide receiver Ron Johnson were named this year's most valuable players at the annual football banquet Monday at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.
Hamilton, a returning All-America selection, is a team captain this season, and considered one of the best centers in Minnesota history. Hamilton has 84 knockdowns to his credit this season and is one of the key reasons for Minnesota's ground success this year. Considered one of the top centers in the country, Hamilton is on a variety of lists for post-season accolades, including the list of finalists for the Lombardi Award - an award presented annually to the nation's best lineman. Hamilton is also a candidate for The Outland Trophy
Following the 1999 season, Hamilton was also given the Paul Giel Award by the team for exhibiting total unselfishness and the most concern for the University of Minnesota community. Hamilton was named first-team All-America by the Associated Press, The Sporting News and CBS Sportsline. He was named to both the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy "Watch Lists." The Golden Gophers ranked 11th in the nation and second in the Big Ten last year in rushing yards, thanks to Hamilton's expertise. He was responsible for 69 knockdown blocks, and allowed just one sack last season.
Johnson is one of the main reasons the Golden Gophers are playing in a post-season bowl game. His 11 touchdown receptions this season have come at opportune times, including last week's fourth-down catch against Iowa. His streak of 34 games with a reception is currently the fifth longest in the nation, and is tied for the longest mark in school history (Tutu Atwell, 1994-97). Johnson is only the third Golden Gopher to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark in school history. He also holds the freshman school record for 38 receptions in his first year.
Johnson continues to amaze both fans and coaches alike. He has shattered a handful of Minnesota reception records, and continues to climb in many others. Johnson has caught a pass in every game of his collegiate career. One of Johnson's most memorable grabs came against Penn State in 1999. Johnson made a spectacular 46-yard catch that helped set up the winning field goal against the number two-ranked Nittany Lions.
This year's awards and honorees are: BRONKO NAGURSKI AWARD (presented to the team's most valuable player): Ben Hamilton (senior center; Plymouth, Minnesota) Ron Johnson (junior wide receiver; Detroit, Michigan) CARL ELLER AWARD (presented to the team's outstanding defensive player): Karon Riley (senior defensive end; Detroit, Michigan) BRUCE SMITH AWARD (presented to the team's outstanding offensive player): Ron Johnson BOBBY BELL AWARD (presented to the outstanding special teams player): Preston Gruening (sophomore punter; Schofield, Wis.) BUTCH NASH AWARD (for competitiveness on the field and in the classroom): Ben Hamilton PAUL GIEL AWARD (for total unselfishness and most concern about the University of Minnesota): Justin Hall (senior linebacker; Bloomington, Minnesota) NEIL FREDENBURG AWARD (courage and love for the game): Sean Hoffman (senior linebacker; Fargo, North Dakota) DEFENSIVE DEMO (for outstanding performance on the defensive demonstration team): Darrell Reid (freshman linebacker; Farmingdale, New Jersey) OFFENSIVE DEMO (for outstanding performance on the offensive demonstration team): Clarence Woods (junior wide receiver; St. Paul, Minnesota)