Courtesy of Louisiana Tech Athletic Communications
Louisiana Tech senior defensive back Willie Roberts was named to the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award 2023 Preseason Watch List, The Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame (OSHOF) and Jim Thorpe Association announced Thursday. The award is presented annually to the nation’s top defensive back.
Roberts is one of 35 players to be named to the list and one of four selections from Conference USA.
Roberts made an immediate impact during his first season in Ruston. The Stephen F. Austin transfer appeared in all 12 games for the Bulldogs 2022 while making 11 starts at cornerback, tallying 29 total tackles (23 solo, 6 assists) and a quarterback hurry. The Fort Worth, Texas product led Tech with four interceptions and six pass breakups. His four interceptions ranked 22nd nationally among all FBS players. Roberts was tabbed First-Team Preseason All-Conference USA by Phil Steele while picking up second-team all-conference honors from Athlon Sports.
This list includes 35 of the nation’s best defensive backs, representing 10 conferences and one independent university. The preseason watch list is selected by a screening committee whose members compile a list of up to 50 players based on previous performance in NCAA Division I college football and preseason All-America lists. This list is not final, and players with outstanding seasons may be added to the semifinalists and finalists lists as the season progresses.
The Paycom Jim Thorpe Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA includes college football’s most prestigious awards, and its 24 awards have honored more than 900 recipients since 1935. This season, 12 NCFAA awards will honor national players of the week each Tuesday. Semifinalists will be announced on Oct. 31 followed by finalists being announced Nov. 28 before the winner is announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards show in December.
Roberts joins Abraham Delfin (Wuerffel Trophy), Smoke Harris (Paul Hornung Award) and Marquis Crosby (Doak Walker Award) as Bulldogs who have garnered national watch list recognition.
Louisiana Tech will play a fast, exciting brand of football when Head Coach Sonny Cumbie‘s Bulldogs open the 2023 season with an 8 p.m. CUSA showdown against FIU on Aug. 26 inside Joe Aillet Stadium.