Iowa Football Awards Announced

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa junior DB Cooper DeJean, senior LB Jay Higgins and junior RB Leshon Williams were named Roy J. Carver Most Valuable Players as the Iowa football program announced its 2023 team awards on Sunday.

DeJean was one of top defensive players in the nation before going down with a season-ending injury on Nov. 15. He finished the season with 41 tackles, two TFL, two interceptions and five pass breakups in 10 games. A finalist for the Jim Thorpe and Bronko Nagurski awards, DeJean did not allow a touchdown pass in 388 snaps in coverage in 2023. He was voted the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year in the Big Ten in 2023.

As a punt returner, DeJean was one of the nation’s best. A Walter Camp first-team All-American, DeJean had a 70-yard punt return for a game-winning touchdown against Michigan State and he had a second touchdown return for the game-winning score negated because of an “invalid fair catch signal” against Minnesota. The Odebolt, Iowa, native is second in the Big Ten and ranks 14th nationally, averaging 11.5 yards per return.

Higgins was recently recognized as a second-team All-American by Walter Camp, as well as a first-team all-conference selection by the Associated Press, and league coaches and media. He has amassed 155 tackles — the most in the Big Ten, the third-most nationally (most by a Power 5 player) and the fourth-most in a single season in school history. The Indianapolis native has led the team in tackles in 11 of 13 games with two 15+ tackle games and nine games with 10 or more stops. A Butkus Award semifinalist, Higgins has been a leader on an Iowa defense that is fourth nationally, allowing 13.2 points per game.

Williams, an honorable mention all-conference selection, rushed for a team-high 804 yards and one touchdown. The Illinois native has three 100-yard games, including a 174-yard performance in the road win in Madison. He had an 82-yard touchdown run in the game — Iowa’s longest rush since 1997.

Four team captains were named, including Luke Lachey on offense, Higgins and senior defensive end Joe Evans on defense, and Tory Taylor on special teams. Evans was also recognized with the Iron Hawk Award.

Lachey caught 10 passes for 131 yards before sustaining a season-ending injury in the third game of the season. He caught a career-high seven passes for 73 yards in the season-opening victory against Utah State and had three receptions for 58 yards in the win at Iowa State. The native of Columbus, Ohio, was on the John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List and was one of six juniors named to the 2023 Player Council.

Evans was a third-team All-Big Ten selection for a second straight year after accumulating 41 tackles and team bests in sacks (5.5) and TFL (9.5) during the regular season. The Ames, Iowa, native has 24 career sacks, which are tied for the sixth-most in school history.

Taylor broke Iowa’s single season punting yardage record for a third consecutive season. The 2023 Ray Guy Award recipient has an NCAA-best 86 punts for 4,119 yards with his 47.9 average leading the Big Ten and ranking third nationally. Thirty-six of his punts have traveled 50+ yards (six punts of 60+), 27 have been fair caught, 30 have been downed inside the 20, 11 inside the 10 and six inside the 5. He only has six touchbacks and opponents average just 8.8 yards per return. He has 288 punts for 13,297 yards — both school records — and his 46.2 career average will break Jason Baker’s mark come season’s end. The Australia native also was voted the Eddleman-Field Big Ten Punter of the Year.

The Hayden Fry “Extra Heartbeat” Award was shared by Lachey, junior center Logan Jones and junior OT Mason Richman on offense, Higgins, Evans and senior DT Logan Lee on defense, and Taylor and DeJean on special teams. The Hayden Fry Award is presented to team members who show exemplary leadership and dedication throughout the year as well as the offseason. Jones earned third-team all-conference recognition by the league coaches, while Richman and Lee both were honorable mention All-Big Ten.

The Brett Greenwood Award was shared by seniors DB Quinn Schulte and LB Kyler Fisher on defense and senior OL Nick DeJong on offense. Established in 2011, the Greenwood Award goes to former walk-ons who embodies the values and behaviors of former Hawkeye walk-on Brett Greenwood. These student-athletes have made a significant contribution to the team through persistence, determination, commitment, preparation and action. Schulte started all 13 games at free safety, ranking fourth on the squad in tackles (60), tied for third with four pass break-ups, to go along with an interception (39-yard return versus Rutgers). He was an honorable mention all-conference selection. Fisher played in all 13 games, earning three starts, totaling 26 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, forced one fumble and a pass break-up. DeJong played in 10 games, including seven starts in 2023. He was a third-team All-Big Ten honoree by the league coaches.

Senior DL Aaron Graves received the Forest Evashevski Academic Achievement Award. Graves earned Academic All-Big Ten honors this past season. A Dean’s List honoree (Spring, 2023), the exercise science major boasts a 3.96 grade point average. He earned an associate degree from Iowa Central Community College during high school. On the field, Graves has collected 34 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and a pass break-up.

The Reggie Roby Special Teams Award was shared by Taylor (specialist) and DeJean (overall).

Eight Hawkeyes earned the Next Man In Award: sophomore WR Kaleb Brown, junior OL Tyler Elsbury, sophomore QB Deacon Hill, sophomore RB Kaleb Johnson, freshman ST John Nestor, redshirt freshman DB Deshaun Lee, sophomore TE Addison Ostrenga and ST Kaden Wetjen.

Brown’s 176 receiving yards (19 catches) are second most among Hawkeye wide receivers. Elsbury saw significant time at center during November, a month that saw Iowa go 4-0. Hill posted a 6-2 record as the starting quarterback beginning with a win over Purdue on Oct. 7. Johnson has 429 yards on the ground and a team-best three rushing touchdowns, including a game-winning 30-yard rush late in the fourth quarter to upend Illinois. Nestor was a special teams contributor, a unit that allowed 15.6 yards on seven returns in 13 games. Lee started four games at cornerback — the first two games and last two contests — amassing 31 tackles and three pass break-ups. Ostrenga is tied for the team in lead in receptions (29) and is second in touchdown catches (2). Wetjen has a team-best 312 yards (24.0 avg.) on 13 kickoff returns and also returned six punts for 64 yards.

Coaches Appreciation Award recipients were junior DT Yahya Black, junior DE Deontae Craig, DeJean, senior LB Nick Jackson and senior DT Noah Shannon on defense; junior OG Connor Colby, senior WR Nico Ragaini, senior TE Steven Stilianos and junior RB Leshon Williams on offense; junior LS Luke Elkin, Fisher, redshirt freshman LB Jayden Montgomery and sophomore LB Jaxon Rexroth on special teams.

Team Hustle Awards went to senior TE Erick All, sophomore OT Gennings Dunker and Ostrenga on offense; senior DB Sebastian Castro, junior DL Ethan Hurkett and Schulte on defense; sophomore DB Deavin Hilson, Nestor and sophomore RB Max White on special teams.

Team Leader Awards were presented to sophomore TE Andrew Lentsch, freshman WR Judah Mallette and freshman OL Cael Winter on offense; redshirt freshman DE Brian Allen, freshman DB Amare Bickham, freshman LB Ben Kueter and freshman DB Kahlil Tate on defense; freshman LB Jack Laughlin, freshman Zach Lutmer, Kueter and Tate on special teams.

Junior DB Jermari Harris was presented the Comeback Player of the Year Award. A native of Chicago, Harris missed 2022 due to injury and was sidelined the first two games of 2023, before returning to the field and starting 11 straight games. Harris is tied for the team lead in pass break-ups (8), has one interception and totaled 39 tackles as a junior.

The Bump Elliott Appreciation Award was presented to the Hotel Kirkwood staff, who assist with the football team’s needs every Friday and Saturday prior to home football contests.

The 2023 Distinguished Service Award was presented to Greg Morris, who is the long-time equipment manager. Morris has worked more than four decades with the Iowa football program in all phases of equipment and uniform management.

No. 17 Iowa (10-3) will face No. 21 Tennessee in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando, Florida (noon CT, ABC). The Hawkeyes earned their 21st bowl invite over the past 25 seasons under Moon Family head football coach Kirk Ferentz.

Forest Evashevski Academic Achievement Aaron Graves
Iron Hawk Award Joe Evans
Roy Carver Most Valuable Players Leshon Williams, offense
Jay Higgins, defense
Cooper DeJean, defense
Permanent Team Captains Luke Lachey, offense
Jay Higgins, defense
Joe Evans, defense
Tory Taylor, special teams
Hayden Fry Award Logan Jones, offense
Luke Lachey, offense
Mason Richman, offense
Jay Higgins, defense
Logan Lee, defense
Joe Evans, defense
Tory Taylor, special teams
Cooper DeJean, special teams
Reggie Roby Special Teams Award Tory Taylor, specialist
Cooper DeJean, overall
Team Leader Award Cael Winter, offense
Andrew Lentsch, offense
Judah Mallette, offense
Brian Allen, defense
Ben Kueter, defense
Kahlil Tate, defense
Amare Bickham, defense
Zach Lutmer, special teams
Ben Kueter, special teams
Jack Laughlin, special teams
Kahlil Tate, special teams
Brett Greenwood Award Quinn Schulte
Kyler Fisher
Nick DeJong
Comeback Player of the Year Jermari Harris
Coaches Appreciation Award Steven Stilianos, offense
Leshon Williams, offense
Nico Ragaini, offense
Connor Colby, offense
Noah Shannon, defense
Cooper DeJean, defense
Nick Jackson, defense
Yahya Black, defense
Deonte Craig, defense
Luke Elkin, special teams
Jayden Montgomery, special teams
Jaxon Rexroth, special teams
Kyler Fisher, special teams
Team Hustle Award Addison Ostrenga, offense
Erick All, offense
Gennings Dunker, offense
Quinn Schulte, defense
Sebastian Castro, defense
Ethan Hurkett, defense
John Nestor, special teams
Deavin Hilson, special teams
Max White, special teams
Next Man In Award Deacon Hill, offense
Kaleb Johnson, offense
Kaleb Brown, offense
Tyler Elsbury, offense
Addison Ostrenga, offense
Deshaun Lee, defense
Kaden Wetjen, special teams
John Nestor, special teams
Bump Elliott Award Hotel Kirkwood Staff
Distinguished Service Award Greg Morris