Jonathan Hefney, originally from Rock Hill, S.C., was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference pick as a junior last fall. He ranked second among Vol defenders in tackles (96), first in interceptions (5), second in pass breakups (8) and sixth in big plays (12). He also averaged a team-best 12.1 yards on 17 punt returns last fall, with a long of 65 yards.
As the only returnee from UT's 2006 secondary, Hefney will be counted on to provide quality play and leadership for a 2007 secondary that will be glaringly inexperienced. As Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis recently noted: "Hefney's a great player but we need some people around him playing at that level."
Named for Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, The Lott Trophy is awarded to the college defensive player with the greatest impact on the game. Sponsored by The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, the award goes to a player who shows the characteristics Lott exhibited during his distinguished career at Southern Cal – integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.
Hefney certainly has the tenacity part down pat. Although he stands just 5-9 and weights a mere 186 pounds, he manages to handle the physical demands of a safety – covering 6-4 receivers and 250-pound tight ends, taking on 240-pound fullbacks and bringing down 220-pound tailbacks.
Hefney is one of five SEC players on the 42-man Lott Watch List. Also nominated are cornerback Simeon Castille of Alabama, tackle Glenn Dorsey of LSU, end Derrick Harvey of Florida and linebacker Wesley Woodyard of Kentucky.
SEC players claimed two of the first three Lott Trophies. Defensive end David Pollack of Georgia won the initial one in 2004 and linebacker DeMeco Ryans of Alabama won in 2005. Cornerback Daymeion Hughes of California was the recipient in 2006.
Voters for the award include members of the national media, previous finalists, the Board of Directors of the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, The IMPACT Foundation Board of Advisers (featuring numerous retired NFL players) and a collection of former college coaches.
The Lott Trophy winner will be announced Dec. 9 during a black-tie banquet at The Pacific Club in Newport Beach.
The 2007 nominees are: Xavier Adibi, LB, Virginia Tech; Jamar Adams, S, Michigan; Josh Barrett, S, Arizona State; Tommy Blake, DE, Texas Christian; Caleb Campbell, DB, Army; Jonathan Casillas, LB, Wisconsin; Antoine Cason, DB, Arizona; Simeon Castille, CB, Alabama; Dan Connor, LB, Penn State; Shawn Crable, LB, Michigan; Maurice Crum, LB, Notre Dame; Brian Cushing, LB, Southern California; Bruce Davis, DE, UCLA; Jordan Dizon, LB, Colorado; Glenn Dorsey, DL, LSU; Sedrick Ellis, DT, Southern California; Zack Follett, LB, California; Eric Foster, DT, Rutgers; Vince Hall, LB, Virginia Tech; Chris Harrington, DL, Texas A&M; Nic Harris, DB, Oklahoma; Derrick Harvey, DL, Florida; Jonathan Hefney, S, Tennessee; Chris Horton, CB, UCLA; Kelin Johnson, SS, Georgia; Cody Kase, LB, New Mexico; Drew Kelson, LB, Texas; Mike Klinkenborg, LB, Iowa; Nick Larkin, DE, Boston College; James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State; J. Leman, LB, Illinois; Chris Long, DL, Virginia; Derek Lokey, DT, Texas; Dwight Lowery, CB, San Jose State; Marc Magro, LB, West Virginia; Jeff Van Orsow, DL, Oregon State; Darryl Richard, DT, Georgia Tech; Keith Rivers, LB, Southern California; Bo Ruud, LB, Nebraska; Eric Wicks, DB, West Virginia; Wesley Woodyard, LB, Kentucky; Tom Zbikowski, S, Notre Dame.