Amerson Talks Maryland, Thorpe Award

David Amerson received the news on Monday afternoon. The NC State sophomore cornerback is one of three finalists for the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the top defensive back in college football.

David Amerson received the news on Monday afternoon. The NC State cornerback is one of three finalists for the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the top defensive back in college football.

Just a sophomore, Amerson is competing with Alabama senior safety Mark Barron and LSU junior cornerback Morris Claiborne for the award. If you look strictly at the individual numbers, Amerson has a strong case for taking home the hardware.

He leads the country in interceptions with 11, which is four more than any other player and more than 82 FBS teams have recorded, and he has also totaled 51 tackles and five pass breakups.

Barron has tallied 52 tackles, five pass breakups, and two picks, and Claiborne has notched 40 tackles, four pass breakups, and four interceptions.

Amerson broke the NC State single-season interception mark that had stood since 1938 earlier this year and has tied the ACC single-season record that was set 15 years ago by UNC's Dre Bly.

"I think about it when I lay down at night because it's a big accomplishment," Amerson said of breaking the school interception record and tying the ACC mark. "I never thought I would accomplish something like that so fast. I mean it has been an individual goal to do something like that, but it's happened so fast. I'm just thankful."

Amerson recorded his eleventh interception on Saturday in the 37-13 win over Clemson. Going into the game, Amerson was told by the coaches that he would follow freshman wideout Sammy Watkins all over the field, but Watkins missed the game with a shoulder injury.

"I kind of did want to play against him," said Amerson. "I like playing against great players. We beat them and some people may say well he didn't play, but I knew that was going to happen. It's alright. I'll take the win anyway."

Amerson pointed out that a lot of his success is due to the players around him. NC State's defensive front has applied pressure all season, as the Wolfpack is tied for eighth nationally in sacks.

"Our front seven has been great," he stated. "If the front seven is getting after it like ours does, we're going to be able to make plays in the secondary.

"The quarterback, he gets scared back there. He's going to start making stupid decisions and stupid throws. That's better for us."

The Wolfpack recorded six sacks versus Clemson and was after Tiger quarterback Tajh Boyd all game. State jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, cruising to the big win.

"I told the guys at halftime that it was all on us," said Amerson. "The only way they were coming back was if we allowed big plays, and we stop big plays. It was all on us, and we did our job."

State's defense has been on tear lately. The starting unit has allowed just six points over the previous six quarters and the Wolfpack has allowed just 27 total points over the previous three games, including a shutout win over rival North Carolina.

After struggling early, NC State now has a defense that is in the top 50 nationally in virtually every statistical category and rising. What has been the biggest difference for the Wolfpack?

"We've been coming out with intensity," said Amerson. "Every game we're trying to come out fast and let it continue throughout the game. Then we can feed off that momentum.

"Plus, the coaches do a great job of preparing us. We come out here and practice hard, and it has been paying off for us on Saturdays."

NC State is now 6-5 on the season and one win away from becoming bowl eligible. Standing in the way is a familiar foe, the Maryland Terrapins. NC State went into last season's finale against Maryland needing a win to reach the ACC championship game but came up short.

While Amerson feels that is motivation for his team, he also knows that this year's group has a lot at stake as well.

"We're definitely going into this game with a bitter taste in our mouth and a chip on our shoulder," he said. "But, it's not just about last year because we've got a lot at stake this season. We're not trying to let it happen two years in a row.

"We've got to come out and stop the run. Plus, the quarterback for Maryland is real fast. We've got to keep him in the pocket and get him down. If we can do that, I think we'll be okay."

NC State's regular season will end this weekend, and Amerson is sure to receive a host of accolades. He is a shoo-in for All-ACC and will likely make several All-American teams. However, the big award he wants will be announced in early December.

The presentation of the Jim Thorpe Award will be featured on The Home Depot College Football Awards live on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Amerson says that his parents and brother will definitely be in attendance, and he admits that winning that award is something he thought about, even before enrolling at NC State.

"That is every defensive back's dream," he said of potentially winning the Jim Thorpe Award. "I can't really even explain what that would mean. It's unexplainable.

"I've been blown away by the attention, but I'm staying focused. We've got to win this next game, and I haven't let it get to me. I've got team goals left, you know."

If he took home the hardware, Amerson would be the Wolfpack's first Jim Thorpe Award winner.

"Man, that would be special, wouldn't it?" he said, smiling.

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