Tyler Matakevich nation's best defensive player

Tyler Matakevich, a senior linebacker for the Temple Owls, an Associated Press All-America first team selection, was named the winner of the 2015 Chuck Bednarik Award, as announced live on ESPN on Thursday, Dec. 10. The honor is given annually to the nation's best defensive player by the Maxwell Football Club.

Matakevich of Stratford, who played scholastically at St. Joseph High in Trumbull, is the only FBS players to lead his team in tackles every game of the 2015 season. He is college football's active leader with 481 career tackles, and is ninth all-time on the NCAA career list. This season, Matakevich has racked up 126 total tackles, and became just the seventh college football player to have four seasons over 100 tackles. He also leads the nation in interceptions among linebackers with a career-high five and also reached career-highs in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (15.0).

Earlier this week, Matakevich was named the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and was also honored as the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and the Walter Camp Football Foundation Connecticut Player of the Year. Matakevich was also named first team All-America by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and USA Today – the first Temple defensive player ever to achieve first team recognition.

Vying for the Chuck Bednarik Award given to the National Defensive Player of the Year with Matakevich were Penn State end Carl Nassib and Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland.

The announcement of the 2015 winner of the Bednarik Award was part of the ESPN Home Depot 25th anniversary College Football Awards broadcast live from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Chuck Bednarik Award was presented by Coach Dick Vermeil, who is a Super Bowl winning coach with the St. Louis Rams and former head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. Vermeil is also a longtime member of the Maxwell Football Club Board of Governors.

Named after Chuck Bednarik, the award is given to the nation's best defensive player. Bednarik, known as the Iron Man and Concrete Charlie, was a two-way standout with the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 years. A three-time All-American at the University of Pennsylvania, Bednarik is a member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fames. He passed away earlier this year, just shy of his 90th birthday.

Matakevich was named the winner of the 2015 Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Dec. 7, given to the nation's best defensive player by the Football Writers Asso­ciation of America (FWAA) and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Fans can re-live the moment later this week. CBS Sports Network, with Adam Zucker hosting, will air the trophy presentation Friday, Dec. 11, at 9 p.m.

Matakevich said about winning the award on the OwlSports.com, the official website of Temple University Athletics: “(It is an) unbelievable, awesome experience. Temple has had nobody here to win it. It is a humbling experience...We had 22 seniors and all us went through 2-10 and 6-6 and we went through a coaching change. We said enough is enough. We are not going to lose anymore."

Vying for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy with Matakevich were: Duke safety Jeremy Cash, Clemson end Shaq Lawson, Penn State end Carl Nassib and Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland.

John Rocco, executive director of the Charlotte Touchdown Club, said all five candidates were deserving of the award.

"Each of these young men has earned the honor of having his name associated with football legend Bronko Nagurski and have distinguished themselves both on and off the playing field," Rocco said in a release.

The keynote address for the banquet was given by Auburn University coach Gus Malzahn.

Former Ohio State star Randy Gradishar received this year's Bronko Nagurski Legends Award.

The award is named after the legendary Bronko Nagurski, who dominated college football at the University of Minnesota as a bruising fullback and defensive tackle from 1927-29. He could have been an All-Ameri­can at any position and was the best player wherever the coaches put him. Nagurski led Minnesota to the Big Ten title in 1927 and a three-year record of 18-4-2. He went on to lead the fabled Chicago Bears to three NFL titles.

The FWAA has named a National Defensive Player of the Year since the 1993 season. Of the five schools represented among the finalists, only Clemson has had a previous winner, Da'Quan Bowers in 2010.

Celebrating its 75th year, the Football Writers Association of America, a nonprofit organization, consists of more than 1,400 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America team.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association. The NCFAA encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. The 22 awards boast more than 700 years of tradition-selection excellence. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more.

The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C., region. The club's activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding citizen­ship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area athletes and coaches. The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is touchdownclub.com.