Abdul-Khaliq named team MVP

Senior quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq was named the team's Bronko Nagurski Award winner, which is given to the team's most valuable player, and the Bruce Smith Award winner, which is given to the team's offensive MVP. The Gophers' team awards were given at the annual University of Minnesota football banquet tonight at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

Abdul-Khaliq, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., had his most successful season with the Gophers in 2003, leading them to a 9-3 record and 5-3 mark in the Big Ten. Abdul-Khaliq, who is ranked fourth in the nation in pass efficiency this season with a rating of 165.65, is the first Gopher quarterback to lead the Big Ten in that category. He has thrown for a career-high 2,229 yards with 17 touchdowns in 2003. Abdul-Khaliq became the school's all-time leader in total offense this season, surpassing Rickey Foggie with 7,617 yards. He also moved ahead of Cory Sauter as the Gophers' all-time leader in touchdown passes with 55. He is ranked second in career passing with 6,488 yards and in career completions with 469. Abdul-Khaliq is the only quarterback in school history to throw at least 12 touchdowns in three separate seasons. He also set the school record for single-season completion percentage (63.8) in 2003. Earlier this season he became only the fourth Gopher quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in his career.   

Junior free safety Eli Ward took home the Carl Eller Award as the defensive MVP for the second consecutive season. A native of Akron, Ohio, Ward led the 2003 Gophers in tackles with 88, and was tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (2) and interceptions (3). This is the second straight season that Ward led the Gophers in tackles.  

Team captains for the 2004 season will be announced at a later date.

This year's awards and honorees are:

BRONKO NAGURSKI AWARD (presented to the team's most valuable player):
Asad Abdul-Khaliq (senior quarterback; Elizabeth, N.J.)

CARL ELLER AWARD (presented to the team's outstanding defensive player):
Eli Ward (senior free safety; Akron, Ohio)

BRUCE SMITH AWARD (presented to the team's outstanding offensive player):
Asad Abdul-Khaliq (senior quarterback; Elizabeth, N.J.)

BOBBY BELL AWARD (presented to the outstanding special teams player):
Rhys Lloyd (junior placekicker; Dover, England)

BUTCH NASH AWARD (for competitiveness on the field and in the classroom):
Greg Eslinger (sophomore center; Bismarck, N.D.)

(for total unselfishness and most concern about the University of Minnesota):  
Joe Quinn (senior offensive guard; Downing, Wis.)

NEIL FREDENBURG AWARD (courage and love for the game):
Dan Kwapinski (senior defensive tackle; Fort Ransom, N.D.)

DEFENSIVE DEMO (for outstanding performance on the defensive demonstration team):
John Shevlin (freshman linebacker; Eagan, Minn.)

OFFENSIVE DEMO (for outstanding performance on the offensive demonstration team):
Kevin Salmen (sophomore tight end; St. Paul, Minn.)

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