Football Writers Association of America Dec. 8, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Steve Richardson
Oklahoma has second winner in three years

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FWAA) For the second time in three years, an Oklahoma defensive back has claimed the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

On Monday night, OU cornerback Derrick Strait was named the 11th winner of the award, which is presented annually by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the Charlotte Tocuhdown Club to the best defensive player in college football.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy

Two years ago the award went to another OU defensive back, Roy Williams, now a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

"You see very few players who have the impact on the game like he does," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Strait. "I have never seen a guy do what he does.

"His leadership, toughness, his ability to make plays and affect other players.The last several years he has been a great leader and made a difference in a very good football program."

Strait won the award over teammate Tommie Harris, a tackle on Oklahoma's defense. Other Bronko Nagurski finalists were UCLA end Dave Ball, LSU tackle Chad Lavalais and West Virginia linebacker Grant Wiley.

"I am surprised because there are a lot of great defensive players here," Strait said. "I am just happy to be in the same group. Winning is amazing.

"I feel this was one of my best seasons," Strait said. "I had a better season last season interception-wise. But this season I had a better all-around season.

"Coach Mike Stoops made me the player I was," Strait said of OU's former co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach who has accepted the head coaching position at Arizona. "I hadn't played that much cornerback before I got to Oklahoma."

Derrick Strait shows off the hardware

All the players are members of the FWAA's 25-man All-America team which also be honored Friday night in Orlando, Fla., on the floor of the Citrus Bowl Stadium.

But the best of the defender as voted upon by the FWAA All-America committee was Strait, a native of Austin, Texas.

Strait, a 5-11, 195 senior, has had an outstanding season in which he is the third-leading OU tackler with 69 (47 unassisted), had seven tackles for 19 yards in losses, intercepted three passes for 127 return yards. He has set Oklahoma career records for passes broken up, career starts and interception return yards.

He has also made big plays in big games.

Strait's interception against Texas early in the game keyed a 65-13 OU victory in which he also had 11 tackles (one for loss), two fumble recoveries and three passes broken up. He had an interception and 97-yard return against Texas Tech.

"You have to play big in the big games," Strait said. "I made the first interception (against Texas) and we just kept rolling from there on out."

Strait said he expected Lavalais or Wiley to win the award. But Harris all along was projecting Strait as the winner.

"Definitely," Harris said of Strait winning. "He has the ability to change the whole game. I have never seen a cornerback on one side of the field make so many things happen."

Strait has broken up 11 passes this season, recovered four fumbles, and forced two fumbles.

"I like to tackle more than anything, being physical," Strait said. "I played safety in high school and I still have those tactics. But I like breaking up passes and intercepting them and then trying to run with them."