NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Junior wide receiver Will Fuller is known for his game-breaking catches.
Friday night at ECHOES15 in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, he snagged Notre Dame’s Most Valuable Player Award for the 2015 Fighting Irish squad that finished the regular season at 10-2 with a Fiesta Bowl bid awaiting in Glendale, Ariz.
Team 127, as the Irish call themselves, was presented with 15 individual awards Friday night. The event was emceed by 1983 Notre Dame graduate Hannah Storm and her husband, NBC broadcaster Dan Hicks, who were armed with plenty of quips to tease players and coaches alike.
Notre Dame Vice President/Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick addressed the audience to offer a few words in honor of Team 127.
“I have never seen a team that demonstrated faith in one another like this team,” Swarbrick said.
Fuller – who enters the Fiesta Bowl with 56 receptions for 1,145 yards and 13 touchdowns – is the fourth player in Irish history with back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
“He changed the game,” said Irish head coach Brian Kelly. “When the moment was great, he stepped up. The great players find a way to make the big play when those big plays are needed.”
Fuller was one of four finalists for the award along with quarterback DeShone Kizer, defensive lineman Sheldon Day, and linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Senior offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley was tabbed as Offensive Player of the Year while junior linebacker Jaylon Smith was named Defensive Player of the Year.
The Next Man In Award was presented to senior receiver-turned-running back C.J. Prosise, who did more than just fill in for starter Tarean Folston. Prosise registered the 18th 1000-yard rushing campaign in Notre Dame history with 1,032 yards. He’ll have the chance to add to his total in the Fiesta Bowl as he bounces back from an ankle injury.
“It very easily could have been difficult in the transition,” Kelly said. “But he was selfless and he said he would do whatever was necessary for the team.”
Fifth-year senior Jarrett Grace was presented with the Rockne Student-Athlete Award. He earned his undergraduate degree from the Mendoza College of Business in management-consulting in May 2015. Grace will pick up a second degree from the University this spring, completing a one-year MBA program.
Veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Day, called the Juice Man by his teammates for his persistent energy, won the Lineman of the Year Award presented annually by the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. Day is the fifth two-time winner of the award.
Senior wide receiver Chris Brown, acknowledged by Kelly throughout the season as a true leader of the 2015 team, was presented with the Nick Pietrosante Award, which is given annually to the student-athlete who best exemplifies the “courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride” of the late All-American fullback, who was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 1957-58.
Fifth-year senior center Nick Martin captured the Offensive Lineman of the Year Award.
“The best center in the country,” said offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who presented the award.
Red-shirt freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer was tabbed as Newcomer of the Year: Offense while freshman interior defensive lineman Jerry Tillery was selected as the Newcomer of the Year: Defense.
Other award winners included fifth-year senior linebacker Joe Schmidt (Irish Around the Bend Award) for his charitable works while the Father Lange Iron Cross Award for outstanding development in the weight room was presented to senior defensive end Romeo Okwara.
Fifth-year senior Matthias Farley is the 2015 Special Teams Player of the Year. He received plenty of cajoling from Hicks and Storm for his long career at Notre Dame, as did fellow safety Drue Tranquill.
Scout Team Player of the Year Awards went to freshman interior offensive lineman Tristen Hoge and freshman outside linebacker Asmar Bilal.