2003 Jim Thorpe Award Finalist

University of Miami junior safety Sean Taylor (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep), Derrick Strait of Oklahoma and Florida's Keiwan Ratliff are the three finalists for the 2003 Jim Thorpe Award honoring college football's top defensive back, the Jim Thorpe Association announced Tuesday night.

All three of this year's finalists are listed on the Football Writers Association All-American team.

The winner will be announced on ESPN's College Football Awards Show, telecast live from Disney World on December 11. Thomas Everett, the first winner of the award in 1986, will make the presentation on the ESPN show. Formal presentation of the award will be in Oklahoma City, at the annual Jim Thorpe Awards ceremonies, February 9, 2004.

Taylor has seven interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns. He has 71 tackles, 13 pass breakups, one quarterback sack and was rated by ESPN The Magazine as college football's top player at midseason. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week for his play against Florida State. He "deserves to be considered among the best players in college football - regardless of position," according to his coaches.

Ratliff leads the SEC with nine interceptions and has 47 tackles, six pass breakups, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. He was the Bronco Nagurski Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the game against Arkansas.

Strait has three interceptions for 127 yards, 11 pass breakups, 61 tackles, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. "No player has had a greater impact on our program since we've been here than Derrick," asserts OU head coach Bob Stoops. "He is the consummate playmaker. He sets the example of the way we want our players to approach the game." Strait also is a finalist for the Nagurski Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Thorpe Award has been presented since 1986, based on performance on the field, athletic ability and character. A "Screening Committee" of the Jim Thorpe Association researches and follows the performances of defensive backs as they compete through the season. The committee determines the semi-finalists the first week in November and selects three finalists the Monday before Thanksgiving. A nationwide panel of former coaches, players and sportswriters and sportscasters then votes to select the winner.

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