Black athletes top contenders for O’Brien Trophy
Fred Jeter | 11/22/2023, 6 p.m.
For the longest time, Black quarterbacks in major college football were a rarity.
That’s no longer the case.
The 20 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top QB, includes eight Black athletes and two others of Pacific Islander ancestry.
Two of the semifinalists call the signals for Virginia schools. Kaidon Salter at Liberty University and James Madison’s Jordan McCloud have made the first cut.
The list also includes 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams of Southern Cal. Williams began the season as the clear favorite for all honors, but the Trojans have underperformed, and his star has lost some shine.
The Heisman goes to the top player including all positions, but has tended to be a quarterback the last couple of decades.
Although the pecking order can change each game, the top contenders for the O’Brien Award might be Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Jayden Daniels of LSU, Florida State’s Jordan Travis and Oregon’s Bo Nix.
Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders made a strong early showing but the Colorado Buffaloes, coached by his father Deion, have hit hard times.
In state, JMU’s McCloud is a red-shirt senior who transferred to the Harrisonburg school from Arizona.
Liberty’s Salter, a native Texan, is just a sophomore.
The O’Brien Award was all white until 1989, when Houston’s Andre Ware won the voting.
More recent Black winners have been Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010, Baylor’s Robert Griffin ’11, Jameis
Winston of Florida State in ’13, Deshaun Watson of Florida State in ’16, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray in ’19 and Bryce Young of Alabama in ‘22.
The O’Brien winner in 2023 was Texas Christian’s Max Duggan, now with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The three 2023 finalists will be named Nov. 24 with the winner declared Dec. 8. The Heisman winner will be named Dec. 9. Both awards, which could likely be won by the same man, are based on regular season play only.