Straughter named to Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list


ULM senior cornerback Corey Straughter, who ranked among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision leaders in interceptions (tied for seventh with 5) and passes defended (tied for 14th with 15) last season, has been named to the preseason watch list for the 2020 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually since 1993 to the National Defensive Player of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America and Charlotte Touchdown Club.

Straughter’s name appears on watch lists for three major national awards, including the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Paycom Jim Thorpe Award (nation’s best defensive back) and Bednarik Award (Maxwell Football Club defensive player of the year).

In 2019, Straughter was named All-American by both USA TODAY (second team) and Pro Football Focus (third team) as well as First-Team All-Sun Belt Conference. His 15 passes defended led the Sun Belt and his five interceptions tied for the league lead. Straughter allowed the nation’s lowest passer rating (13.5), lowest completion percentage (28.6) and fewest combined receptions for first downs and touchdowns (7). His 89.9 coverage grade ranked sixth-highest among all NCAA FBS cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. He allowed only one touchdown reception in 2019 (came in the season finale at the Ragin’ Cajuns) and one explosive pass play (20-plus yards; came on the opening drive of Game 11 vs. Coastal Carolina).

The Monroe, Louisiana, native also contributed 23 tackles (18 solos, 5 assists).

“Corey Straughter is a complete corner,” ULM head coach Matt Viator said. “He’s an extremely competitive and talented athlete. Corey has great ball skills, outstanding tackling ability, outstanding change of direction and plays the deep ball very well. In addition, he has the knack for making big, game-changing plays.”

The 5-foot-10, 183-pound Straughter registered three tackles and a pass break-up in the home finale against Coastal Carolina.

He was selected to the PFF Sun Belt Conference Defensive Team of the Week three times last season: against South Alabama, at Texas State and against Georgia State.

Straughter intercepted Arkansas State’s Layne Hatcher’s third-down pass attempt at the Warhawk 36 and returned it 22 yards to set up ULM’s game-tying touchdown (34-34) late in the third quarter. He also contributed three tackles and a pass break-up against the Red Wolves.

Early last season, Straughter recorded an interception in three consecutive games (back-to-back road games at Florida State and Iowa State and the Sun Belt opener against South Alabama).

His interception and 25-yard return to the Texas State 2-yard line in the final 90 seconds iced ULM’s 24-14 win over the Bobcats. Straughter also recorded a career-high four pass break-ups and a solo tackle at Texas State.

He limited Memphis’ leading receiver Damonte Coxie (entered the game with 18 catches for 278 yards and TD) to just two receptions for 18 yards.

With the score tied at 7-7 early in the second quarter of ULM’s Sun Belt Conference opener against South Alabama, Straughter ended an 11-play, 62-yard drive to the Warhawk 13 by intercepting Cephus Johnson’s third-and-goal pass attempt into the end zone. He added two tackles against the Jaguars.

He matched his season high with four tackles (all solo hits) to go along with an interception at Iowa State.

With ULM trailing Florida State 24-7 midway through the third quarter, the complexion of the game changed when Straughter intercepted James Blackman’s first-down pass attempt along the sideline and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown. It marked his second career interception return for a score. Straughter also tallied four stops against the Seminoles.

His career totals include nine career interceptions and 19 career pass break-ups. Straughter already ranks among ULM’s all-time Top 20 in interception return yards (second at 250), pass break-ups (ninth) and interceptions (tied for 15th).

The trophy is named in honor of Bronko Nagurski, a three-year letterman at Minnesota who helped the Golden Gophers to a combined record of 18-4-2 from 1927-29. In 1929, he became the only college

player ever to be selected All-American at two positions, tackle and fullback. Nagurski played as many as five different positions during his collegiate career, including tackle, end, guard, fullback and halfback. Legendary Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne said, “He was the only player I ever saw who could have played every position.” The 6-2, 235-pound Nagurski played nine seasons as a fullback and linebacker for the Chicago Bears (1930-37 and 1943) and earned All-NFL honors five times. He was a charter member of both the College (1951) and Pro Football Halls of Fame (1963).