It wasn’t that of a recipient. Rather, FAU honored one of its current graduate assistants by attaching his name to three awards.
In December FAU announced the winners of the Mike Nysewander Top Offensive Walk-ons, Mike Nysewander Top Defensive Walk-ons and the Mike Nysewander Top Special Teams Walk-on awards.
Why honor Nysewander?
“I just love his story,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said.
A walk-on scout team member when Kiffin arrived as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2014, Nysewander didn’t have much of an opportunity to impress his new coach in person.
“We’re always coaching the first field, but then I’d go back and watch the tape for the other field and he just kept popping up, kept showing up,” Kiffin said. “I kept asking, why’s this guy down there? It’s just one of those things that, guys get lost sometimes and guys aren’t paying attention to them. He was a walk-on. Scholarship players were ahead of him. All that stuff.”
A defensive lineman in high school, Nysewander walked onto Alabama and became a fullback/H-back.
Jalston Fowler handled fullback duties for the Crimson Tide during Kiffin’s first year as offensive coordinator. The following season, with Fowler in the NFL, Nysewander moved to the main field.
“We just kept moving him up, moving him up,” Kiffin said. “Eventually he earned a scholarship. I think they voted him the most inspirational player on the team for his senior year.”
A hard-hitter on special teams and as a blocking back, Nysewander earned the nickname “Highway 46” – a nod to his jersey number – while opening holes for Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry during Alabama’s 2015 championship season.
Nysewander signed with Kansas City as a free agent but never played a down for the Chiefs. When Kiffin left Alabama to become FAU’s coach, he brought in Nysewander as an offensive graduate assistant.
Tight end Ray Wilson and safety Silver Saunders, who doubled as the Owls’ scout team running back, won the Mike Nysewander Top Offensive Walk-on awards for 2017. Neither was credited with an offensive statistic during the season, but Wilson played in all 14 games, recording four special teams tackles and recovering a fumble.
Defensive end Anthony Bennett and linebacker Hosea Barnwell won the Mike Nysewander Top Defensive Walk-on Awards. Bennett’s sack in the Conference USA championship game highlighted his 2017 season. FAU credits Barnwell with two starts and 25 tackles in 2017.
Saunders also won the Mike Nysewander Top Special Teams Walk-on award. He played in six games, recording one tackle.