Tech’s Roberts named Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist

Courtesy of LA Tech Athletic Communications

Louisiana Tech senior defensive back Willie Roberts was named a semifinalist for the 2023 Paycom Jim Thorpe Award, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame (OSHOF) and Jim Thorpe Association announced Tuesday. The award is presented annually to the nation’s top defensive back.

The list includes 15 of the nation’s best defensive backs, representing seven conferences and one independent university. The semifinalists are selected by a screening committee whose members compile a list of up to 15 players based on performance on the field, athletic ability, and character. This list is not final, and unlisted players who have continually outstanding performances as the season progresses may be recognized as one of the three finalists.

Roberts has been phenomenal at locking down opposing receivers this season. The Fort Worth product’s 10 pass breakups are tied for the fourth-most nationally. Roberts is also tied for third in the FBS in passes defended with 11. He has tallied 33 tackles this season in addition to an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.

“Willie’s journey here from Stephen F. Austin and his progression as a player has been impressive,” head coach Sonny Cumbie said. “The way we play defense, if you pay attention to it closely, our corners are challenged every play. Whether you play 50, 70, or 80 plays, I would be willing to bet 90 percent of that is in man coverage, and you will get tested. He has had an incredible season, and his ability to play how we play against the other team’s best allows us to do more in our schemes. He plays against the best people we line up against week in and week out. Willie has great character. He shows up every day and works and has provided a great amount of leadership. It is a very deserving honor.”

The Paycom Jim Thorpe Award Committee will reconvene on the Sunday following Thanksgiving to select three award finalists. The award finalists will be announced as part of a special presentation by ESPN on Tuesday, Nov. 28.
Roberts is the first Bulldog to be named a semifinalist for the coveted award since Amik Robertson in 2019.

The award recipient is selected from the three finalists by the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award National Selection Committee, which boasts members of the NCFAA, an OSHOF in-house award committee, former Paycom Jim Thorpe Award recipients, sportswriters and college football journalists throughout the country.

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 dating back to 1935.

Louisiana Tech continues its 2023 season on Saturday, Nov. 4, when they visit Liberty at 5 p.m. The game will be televised to a national audience on CBS Sports Network.

Fans can purchase single-game tickets online at or by calling the LA Tech Ticket Office at (318) 257-3631.

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Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri, Jr.
Jahdae Barron, Texas, Sr.
Cole Bishop, Utah, Jr.
Denzel Burke, Ohio State, Jr.
Cooper DeJean, Iowa, Jr.
Renardo Green, Florida State, Sr.
Travis Hunter, Colorado, So.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama, Jr.
Benjamin Morrison, Notre Dame, So.
Jakob Robinson, BYU, Jr.
Willie Roberts, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
Jaylin Simpson, Auburn, Sr.
Malaki Starks, Georgia, So.
TJ Tampa, Iowa State, Sr.
Trey Taylor, Air Force, Sr.