After 4 Decades, Pac-12 Only Football Award Handed Out Possibly for the Last Time - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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After 4 Decades, Pac-12 Only Football Award Handed Out Possibly for the Last Time

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The final Morris Trophy honoring linemen in Pac-12 marks an end of an era as the conference faces significant realignment. (AP File/Joe Nicholson)
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SEATTLE — Inside the ballroom of a swanky downtown Seattle athletic club another small piece to the legacy of Pac-12 football ended Thursday.

The Morris Trophy was never a name-brand award handed out following the college football season in part because it honored offensive and defensive linemen, players who sometimes don’t get the recognition they deserve. But it was special on the West Coast and special to the Pac-10 or Pac-12.

The Legacy of the Morris Trophy

Every year since 1980 it’s been awarded, and perhaps most notably was voted on by the players themselves. Coaches, media had no influence in the final decision.

It was players honoring players.

“That’s one of the things that drove this award initially was players voting for players and keeping people who don’t play out,” said Vince Goldsmith, who was honored with the award for his play as a 5-foot-11, 24-pound defensive tackle at Oregon in 1980, the first year it was handed out.

“I think that concept is so worthy.”

For the final time in its current arrangement, the Morris Trophy winners were honored on Thursday — the end to another small chapter of the Pac-12 legacy that crumbled under the weight of conference realignment.

The Final Honorees

The honorees were Washington offensive tackle Troy Fautanu and UCLA defensive lineman Laiatu Latu. Both are bound for the NFL. Both are expected to be selected on the first two days of the draft in April, if not first-round picks.

And both may be the last to hold the awards. At least this version of them.

“We’re recognizing guys who don’t normally get recognized. Everybody loves the process for announcing the winners which is votes by opposing players. If there’s any other awards like that in the country, we haven’t found one yet,” said Wayne Milner, chairman of the Morris Trophy board. “So that is really unique and what makes it really special for everyone involved.

“And that’s not going to happen anymore, no matter what we do, because the Pac-12 is not going to be here.”

The History of the Morris Trophy

The Morris Trophy started 44 years ago, the genesis of Traci Morris Drake, who first got then-Washington coach Don James on board with the idea before pitching it to the rest of the conference.

“I think the first one was the most memorable. For one thing, it got off the ground,” Drake said.

Past Winners

Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees Bruce Matthews, Randall McDaniel, Gary Zimmerman and Tony Boselli have won the award. So too have Lincoln Kennedy and Steve Emtman (twice each), Terrell Suggs, DeForest Buckner, Vita Vea, Tedy Bruschi, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Tyron Smith, Alex Mack and Penei Sewell.

Nineteen times a player from Southern California was honored. Sixteen times from Washington. In the 44 years of the award, 11 of the 12 schools in the conference during that time had at least one player honored. Colorado was the only absence.

The Future of the Award

The future of the award is now the question with Washington, Oregon, USC and UCLA going to the Big Ten; California and Stanford to the ACC; and Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado going to the Big 12 starting next season. There’s talk of trying to continue the award in some way, but if it does it won’t be the same.

“Over 44 years to see some of the other names that are involved in it or attached to it, so you think ‘hey, I’m in that company,’ that’s pleasing,” Goldsmith said.

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