The end of the season is nearly upon us, which means end of the season awards are also right around the corner. The Big Ten has no shortage of awards to hand out -- they'll hand out a whopping 19 individual awards this year, although that includes two Coach of the Year awards (one by the media, one by the coaches themselves), the Championship Game MVP award, and two postcollegiate awards (the Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award and the Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award). That number is one higher this year because the Big Ten has created an award to honor the top return specialist in the league. (It's kind of hard to believe that there was a Punter of the Year honor, but not a Return Specialist of the Year honor... except, wait, it totally isn't because this is the #B1G we're talking about here.) Anyway, we care because of who the Return Specialist of the Year award is named after:
That's right -- TIMMY D! Tim Dwight remains one of our favorite Hawkeye players of all time as well as one of the most memorable players to ever wear black and gold -- his highlights are justly burned into the memory banks of anyone who saw them. And while he could impact a game in many ways -- as a runner, a receiver, or even a coverage man on special teams -- he was never better than with the ball in his hands on a kick or punt return, his quick hips helping him cut away from defenders and his explosive speed leaving them in his dust as he made another trip to the end zone. When he graduated, Dwight owned the Big Ten records for most career punt return yards and return touchdowns:
Those records have since been broken (both Steve Breaston and Jim Leonhard surpassed Dwight's yardage numbers) and Ted Ginn Jr. posted six return touchdowns during his Ohio State career, but he remains a titan of the punt return game.
Dwight is joined on the Return Specialist of the Year award by Johnny Rodgers, which is annoying since a) Rodgers was a Cornhusker (ugh) and b) he never played in the Big Ten. Rodgers was a phenomenal football player, but his career came almost 40 years before Nebraska joined the Big Ten. He has company in that regard, though -- the Offensive Lineman of the Year award honors Dave Rimington, another fine player, but one who played for Nebraska years before they ever joined the Big Ten, while the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award honors Ted Kwalick, who played tight end for Penn State in the 1960s, several decades before they also joined the Big Ten. The Big Ten's appropriation of conference newcomers' pre-Big Ten history remains irritating, although perhaps we should just be thankful that we aren't be asked to celebrate any Maryland or Rutgers players as legends of the Big Ten (yet).
Dwight becomes the third Iowa player honored by having his name affixed to one of the end of season awards, joining Dallas Clark, whose name adorns the aforementioned Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award, and Nile Kinnick, whose name is part of the Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award. The full list of Big Ten football awards can be found here. The Big Ten end of season awards (and All-Big Ten teams, which now include a third-team in addition to first-team, second-team and honorable mention honorees) will be presented live on BTN next week, with offensive honors handed out on Monday, November 30, and defensive honors handed out on Tuesday, December 1. Given Iowa's sensational season, it's fair to expect to see a few Iowa names among the honorees.
In the meantime, kudos to the Big Ten for honoring Dwight; let's watch some Timmy D punt return highlights to celebrate: