EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State junior defensive end Kenny Willekes has landed on his third All-America team of the 2018 season.
Willekes was named to the second team by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), which was released on Monday night. He earned a spot on the first team by The Athletic last Wednesday and was also named to the second team by the Walter Camp Football Foundation last Thursday.
After leading the Big Ten with 20.5 tackles for loss during the regular season, Willekes was named the 2018 Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year. Willekes became the second Spartan to win the award (Shilique Calhoun in 2013), which is named after MSU’s Bubba Smith and Penn State’s Courtney Brown and given to the Big Ten’s most outstanding defensive lineman. Willekes was also selected to the All-Big Ten First Team by the coaches, media and Associated Press.
Willekes, who entered the program as a walk-on linebacker for the 2015 season, has emerged as one of the top pass rushers in the nation. A 6-4, 260-pound native of Rockford, Michigan, Willekes has collected a league-best 20.5 tackles for loss, good for second-most in a Spartan single-season and seventh most in the FBS in 2018. He also leads the Spartans with 8.5 sacks, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten. The junior has registered a career-high 76 tackles to rank first among all defensive lineman in the nation, including a career-high 13 against Ohio State on Nov. 3.
Willekes was credited with a tackle for loss in 10 of MSU’s 12 regular-season games, including a career-high 3.5 against Ohio State and Nebraska in back-to-back games. He opened the season with six tackles, two sacks (19 yards) and a forced fumble in the win over Utah State, and also posted multiple TFLs against Indiana (2.0), Michigan (2.0) and Maryland (2.5).
According to Pro Football Focus, Willekes leads all edge rushers with 21 quarterback hits and ranks tied for fifth with 37 QB hurries.
At the Spartan Football Awards banquet on Nov. 25, Willekes was named the recipient of the Governor’s award (MVP), becoming the first Spartan defensive end to win the honor since its inception in 1931.
A chemistry major, Willekes earned a scholarship in the spring of 2017 and hasn’t looked back since. The native of Rockford, Michigan, is MSU’s active leader in sacks (10th in school history with 15.5) and tackles for loss (12th in school history with 31.5). He ranks among the active career leaders in the FBS in tackles for loss (fourth at 1.35 per game) and sacks (tied for 13th with 0.60 per game).
After playing in just one game as a redshirt freshman in 2016, Willekes earned third-team All-Big Ten honors in 2017 with a team-leading 14.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
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