Maxwell Award Semifinalist List: Bryce Young, Kenneth Walker III headline

The semifinalist list for the Maxwell Award is a varietal who's who of college football stars. Who made the cut, and who can win it in 2021?

The Maxwell Award is presented annually to college football‘s top player. Judged by a panel of sportswriters, sportscasters, the NCAA head football coaches, and the members of the Maxwell Football Club, it is often considered one of the most prestigious individual awards in all of football.

What is the Maxwell Award?

The Maxwell Award aims to recognize talented players at the earliest stages of their careers. It is given to the nation’s “top college football player.”

Named after Robert “Tiny” Maxwell, the award has been given out annually since 1937. Former winners include Doak Walker, O.J. Simpson, Tony Dorsett, Barry Sanders, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, and most recently, DeVonta Smith. There have been two two-time winners in the award’s history. Johnny Lattner won it in 1952 and 1953, while Tim Tebow won the award in 2007 and 2008.

On Monday, the Maxwell Football Club presented its semifinalist list for the 2021 Maxwell Award. Dwindling their preseason watch list to just 12 names, the Maxwell Award Semifinalist list is a who’s who of college football’s stars.

Maxwell Award Semifinalist List

  • QB Bryce Young, Alabama
  • QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
  • QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
  • QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  • QB Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
  • QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
  • QB Tanner Mordecai, SMU
  • QB Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
  • QB Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
  • QB Malik Willis, Liberty
  • RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
  • RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
  • RB Sean Tucker, Syracuse
  • RB Breece Hall, Iowa State
  • WR Drake London, USC

The quarterbacks dominate the list, but it could be said that a running back is the favorite to win the award right now. As the saying goes, “Awards are won in November.” There is still a long time and a lot of football to be played before we can crown a victor.

But that victor is listed above at the very least. Each of the quarterbacks above have had their successes this season. None have seemingly pulled away from the pack, so this race should be an interesting one down the stretch.

Kenneth Walker III has led Michigan State to an undefeated season and set school records in the process. He’s fresh off a dominant showing against Michigan and a PFN Team of the Week mention as well.

Drake London makes it as the lone receiver on the semifinalist list. This, unfortunately, comes with the caveat that he will not win the award after suffering a fractured ankle in USC’s victory over Arizona in Week 9. It’s a testament to how dominant he was this season for USC to be the only receiver to make the semifinalist list.

Who is the Maxwell Award named after?

The Maxwell Award is named after Robert “Tiny” Maxwell, a former college football player at Swarthmore College. Additionally, he was a coach and sportswriter in his professional career. Maxwell played collegiately at the University of Chicago in 1902-1903, playing along the offensive line due to his massive size (240 pounds) when offensive linemen typically weighed under 200 pounds.

He transferred to Swarthmore College in 1904, helping lead the team to a combined 13-4 record, including a 7-1 season in 1905. Maxwell himself is what legends are made of, not just on the field, but off of it as well.

When will the Maxwell Award be given out?

The Maxwell Award will be given to the recipient during the year-end Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Maxwell Award will be the event’s headline that showcases most of the other individual and team-based awards for the 2021 college football season. This year’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show will air on ESPN on December 9 at 7 PM ET.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of NFL News/Analysis for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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