Michigan State safety Xavier Henderson has been added to the Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list. The award is given out annually to the best defensive back in the nation by season’s end.
Henderson is one of six Big Ten defensive backs on the award’s watch list, joining senior Ji’Ayir Brown (Penn State), sophomore Denzel Burke (Ohio State), junior Ronnie Hickman (Ohio State), senior Riley Moss (Iowa) and junior Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State).
Last season, Henderson was one of the more solid players on Michigan State’s struggling defense. He recorded three sacks, 96 tackles, one interception and a forced fumble in 2021.
The award is of course named after Jim Thorpe, a running back and defensive back at Carlisle from 1907-1908 and 1911-1912. He played in the NFL from 1915 to 1928, and was also an outfielder in Major League Baseball from 1913 to 1919 and an accomplished Olympic athlete.
Thorpe also coached football and baseball. He is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
The award is given out by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. Its first winner was Baylor safety Thomas Everett in 1986. Last year, Cincinnati cornerback Coby Bryant won the award.
On this year’s Jim Thorpe Award watch list, the Big Ten and the SEC conferences have the most players (six each).
Darqueze Dennard is the only Michigan State player to ever win the Jim Thorpe Award. He accomplished that feat in 2013.
Today, the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award (given to the top linebacker) was also announced. Tomorrow, the watch lists for the Outland Trophy (top interior lineman) and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player) will be revealed.
Last week, it was announced that Michigan State redshirt senior wide receiver Jayden Reed made the Biletnikoff Trophy watchlist. Reed and redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne were also named to the Maxwell Award watch list, and Thorne made the Davey O’Brien Award watch list as well. Additionally, graduate transfer Jarek Broussard earned a spot on the Doak Walker Award watch list.