Eslinger & Maroney Named Gopher Football MVPs

Senior center Greg Eslinger and junior running back Laurence Maroney have been named the team's Bronko Nagurski Award winners, which is given annually to the team's most valuable player. Eslinger was also selected as the Bruce Smith Award winner, which is given to the team's offensive MVP. The Gophers' team awards were given at the 88th annual University of Minnesota football banquet at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

Greg Eslinger has been a driving force behind the Gopher offense since he was a true freshman in 2002. The Bismarck, N.D., native has started 49 straight games, which is the longest current streak in the nation. He helped lead the Gophers to an average of 497.8 yards of total offense per game in 2005, which ranks fifth in the nation, is the highest average in school history, and ranks third all-time in Big Ten history for average yards per game in a season. Due in large part to the play of Eslinger, the Gophers' rushing offense ranked third in the country and first in the Big Ten, averaging 279.9 yards per game, which is the second-highest average in school history and the seventh-highest average in Big Ten history. Eslinger also protected the quarterback as the Gophers only allowed three sacks, the fewest amount of sacks allowed in the Big Ten in 2005.
Laurence Maroney tallied 1,355 rushing yards in 2005 to became only the third player in Big Ten history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, joining Wisconsin's Ron Dayne and Michigan State's Sedrick Irvin. He also ranks second in school history in career rushing yards with 3,824, second in 100-yard rushing games in a career with 20 and second all time in school history in career all-purpose yardage with 4,676. The St. Louis, Mo., native also ranks first in the Big Ten and third in the nation in average rushing yards per game in 2005 (135.5 ypg).
Senior free safety John Pawielski took home the Carl Eller Award as the defensive MVP. A native of Waupaca, Wis., Pawielski led the 2005 Gophers in tackles with 83 and was third in pass breakups with five. A former walk-on, Pawielski also had an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2005 and was credited with four tackles-for-loss.
Team captains for the 2006 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):
Greg Eslinger (Sr., C, Bismarck, N.D.)
Laurence Maroney (Jr., RB, St. Louis, Mo.)

BRUCE SMITH AWARD (presented to the team's outstanding offensive player):
Greg Eslinger (Sr., C, Bismarck, N.D.)
CARL ELLER AWARD (presented to the team's outstanding defensive player):
John Pawielski (Sr., FS, Waupaca, Wis.)
BOBBY BELL AWARD (presented to the outstanding special teams player):
Jakari Wallace (Sr., WR, Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.)
BUTCH NASH AWARD (for competitiveness on the field and in the classroom):
Greg Eslinger (Sr., C, Bismarck, N.D.)
PAUL GIEL AWARD (for total unselfishness and most concern about the University of Minnesota):
Mark Setterstrom (Sr., OG, Northfield, Minn.)
NEIL FREDENBURG AWARD (courage and love for the game):
Matt Spaeth (Jr., TE, St. Michael, Minn.)
DEFENSIVE DEMO (for outstanding performance on the defensive demonstration team):
Brody Grandas (Fr., SS, Woodbury, Minn.)
OFFENSIVE DEMO (for outstanding performance on the offensive demonstration team):
Joe Swanson (Jr., OG, Eden Prairie, Minn.)

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