Hefney up for award

HOUSTON - University of Tennessee junior Jonathan Hefney is one of 18 semifinalists for the inaugural Randy Moss Return Man Award, GameDay Consultants and Gulf Coast Events announced in a Tuesday release.

In alphabetical order, the semifinalists are: Ray Baum, Iowa St; Darrell Blackman, North Carolina State; Ross Dickerson, Hawaii; Chris Garrett, Ohio; Jonathan Hefney, Tennessee; Jessie Henderson, Southern Methodist; Mikey Henderson, Georgia; DeSean Jackson, California; Grant Jones, Oklahoma State; Kevin Marion, Wake Forest; Damon Nickson, Middle Tennessee; Ean Randolph, South Florida; Lowell Robinson, Pittsburgh; Jeff Smith, Boston College; Sammie Stroughter, Oregon State; Marcus Thigpen, Indiana; Jeremy Trimble, Army; and Josh Wilson, Maryland.

"We are extremely excited to announce these fine young men as the best in their field and as semifinalists for our award," said Jerry Ippoliti, president of Gulf Coast Events. "Their work on the field as outstanding return specialists will finally be recognized and we look forward to the best in the country being announced at our game in January for the inaugural Randy Moss Return Man Award."

Hefney, who returns punts in addition to his regular defensive back duties, ranks third in the Southeastern Conference with a 14.3-yard punt return average on 14 attempts. He broke a career-long, 65-yard punt return in the fourth quarter against South Carolina, setting up the clinching score. For his career, Hefney has 50 punt returns for a 9.3-yard average.

The award, voted on by collegiate sports information directors, will be presented for the first time at the 2007 North South All-Star Classic in Houston to the Division I-A athlete who demonstrates exceptional talent and skill in returning punts or kickoffs. Each year, the field of nominees will be the previous year's leaders or finalists who have remaining eligibility and excelled during the course of that season. These individuals should also represent their team and universities with the highest standards of character. Every week during the season, a "watch list" of candidates will be identified who have displayed outstanding statistics to support their candidacy.

The selection of the finalists will be Dec. 13, with the winner being announced and presented at the North South All-Star Classic being played Jan. 13 in Houston. The game, featuring 90 of the nation's finest collegiate seniors, is set for 11 a.m. Central time and will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Head Coaches for the 2007 game are Mike Leach of Texas Tech (South) and Dick Tomey of San Jose State (North).

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