Riley Bullough, Malik McDowell Featured on Nagurski Trophy Watch List

The Football Writers Association of America has presented a National Defensive Player of the Year Award since 1993 and in the name of Bronko Nagurski since 1995.


EAST LANSING, Mich. – Senior linebacker Riley Bullough and junior defensive lineman Malik McDowell have been named to the 2016 Nagurski Trophy Watch List, according to an announcement made Friday, July 8 by the Football Writers Association of America. The FWAA has presented a National Defensive Player of the Year Award since 1993 and in the name of Bronko Nagurski since 1995. The 88-player watch list features 13 players from the Big Ten.

Earlier this week, Bullough and McDowell were named to the preseason watch list for the 2016 Bednarik Award, presented by the Maxwell Football Club to college football’s defensive player of the year.

In his first season as the starting middle linebacker for the Spartans in 2015, Bullough led the team and ranked 16th in the Big Ten with a career-high 106 tackles (7.6 avg.). He became the first Spartan to record 100 tackles in a single season since his brother Max had 111 in 2012; it marked the seventh season a member of the Bullough family has led Michigan State in tackles (father Shane in 1985-86; uncle Chuck in 1990-91; brother Max in 2011-12).

A second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and third-team pick by the media, Bullough led the team in the regular season with 226 production points and ranked fourth on the team in sacks (4.0 for 20 yards) and tackles for loss (7.5 for 24 yards). He tied for the team lead with two fumble recoveries and also had two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two pass break-ups.

Bullough was named to the Big Ten All-Bowl Team after leading MSU with 11 tackles in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl Classic vs. No. 2 Alabama. In the Big Ten Championship Game vs. No. 4 Iowa, Bullough had five tackles, forced a fumble on Iowa’s first possession, and his hit on Hawkeye tight end George Kittle led to an interception in the end zone in the second quarter.

The Traverse City, Michigan, native recorded seven tackles (3 solos, 4 assists) and scored his first career touchdown against Maryland on Nov. 14, returning an interception 44 yards to give Michigan State the lead for good at 14-7 with 2:07 left in the second quarter. It marked Bullough’s fourth career interception and second of the season.

Bullough collected seven tackles, including 1.5 for losses (3 yards) and a half sack, in the Spartans’ 27-23 victory over No. 12 Michigan in Week 7 as MSU held the Wolverines to a season-low 230 yards of total offense.

Bullough was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording 14 tackles and a pass break-up in the win over No. 7 Oregon on Sept. 12 in Spartan Stadium. The next week against Air Force on Sept. 19, Bullough collected a career-high 16 stops against the Falcons. In the season opener at Western Michigan, Bullough became the first player since Denicos Allen in 2011 to record three sacks in a single game.

A three-year letterwinner, Bullough has played in 41 career games, including 14 starts. He has collected 138 career tackles, including 11.5 for losses with 7.5 sacks, and has four career interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

McDowell, a second-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media as a sophomore in 2015, ranked second on the team in tackles for loss (13 for 54 yards), tied for second in QB hurries (8) and third in sacks (4.5 for 38 yards). He was also named first-team All-Big Ten by and picked up second-team honors from The Associated Press and Athlon Sports. McDowell was second among Spartan defensive linemen with 41 tackles and ranked second on the team with 146 production points during the regular season.

Along with Bullough, McDowell was also named to the Big Ten All-Bowl Team after recording two tackles, including a 2-yard loss, vs. No. 2 Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl Classic. The 6-6, 280-pound junior racked up 25 production points in MSU’s regular-season finale against Penn State, as he recorded a 10-yard sack and a 13-yard interception return for a touchdown.

McDowell posted career highs in tackles (eight) and tackles for loss (4.5 for 14 yards) in MSU’s 24-7 win over Maryland to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. McDowell’s 4.5 tackles for loss were the eighth-best single-game total in MSU history and the second most by a Big Ten player in 2015 (Dean Lowry, Northwestern, six vs. Nebraska). McDowell also was credited with a half sack (2 yards) and forced fumble against the Terrapins. He totaled a career-high 29 production points in the game.

McDowell also had multiple tackles for loss games against Rutgers (2 for 11 yards) and Purdue (2 for 7 yards) while recording one sack each during those contests.

The Detroit, Michigan, native has played in 27 career games, including 15 consecutive starts. He has recorded 56 career tackles, including 17 for losses (75 yards) and 6.0 sacks (53 yards). McDowell was named a first-team preseason All-American by Athlon Sports last month.

The FWAA’s National Defensive Player of the Year Award is named after Bronko Nagurski, who dominated college football at Minnesota as a bruising fullback and defensive tackle from 1927-29. He could have been an All-American at any position and was the best player wherever the coaches placed him. In the 1930s, Nagurski became a five-time All-NFL selection with the Chicago Bears.

The FWAA and Charlotte Touchdown Club will announce five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Nov. 17. The formal presentation of the award will be made at the annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet on Dec. 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In 2013, unanimous All-America cornerback Darqueze Dennard became the first Spartan player in school history to be selected as a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.