JACKSON — Once a walk-on, Southern Mississippi quarterback Austin Davis has been recognized as the state of Mississippi’s top college football player.
Davis won the 2011 Conerly Trophy Presented by C Spire Wireless at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, becoming the sixth quarterback to win the award since it began it 1996.
The 6-foot-2, 221-pound senior from Meridian was an overlooked recruit because his high school program at West Lauderdale relied heavily on an option offense. But he blossomed into a four-year starter for the Golden Eagles, and now holds nearly every school single-season and career passing record, moving past NFL great Brett Favre for the top spot on many of the lists.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates and the success of our season,” Davis said. “Awards like this go to guys who play for good football teams, and the fact that we’re playing for a championship this week is a huge credit.”
He has thrown for 3,052 yards and 24 touchdowns (10 interceptions) this season to lead Southern Miss to a No. 24 national ranking, Conference USA Eastern Division title, and the program’s first 10-win season since 1988.
Southern Miss (10-2) will face No. 7 Houston (12-0) in the C-USA championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday (WKDH). It’s the first trip to the conference championship for the Golden Eagles since 2006.
Davis and Fedora rushed up Highway 49 after practice — by way of a police escort — and made it to the awards ceremony just in time Tuesday night.
“It was worth the trip,” Fedora said. “It’s extremely gratifying to know the voters in this state recognize the same things we do. He’s a tremendous quarterback and the best ambassador for this school you could ever hope for because of the way he handles himself on and off the field.”
Fedora said he didn’t pay much attention to Davis when he first arrived in Hattiesburg in 2007, but the skinny freshman’s play in practice was impossible to ignore.
“Austin was just so incredibly competitive that your eye was drawn to him,” Davis said. “It was obvious that his teammates had respect for him because of the way he handled himself, and he just improved every day until it was obvious that he was the quarterback for us.”
Delta State quarterback Micah Davis, Jackson State quarterback Casey Therriault, Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks, and University of Mississippi safety Charles Sawyer were the other finalists.
Austin Davis and Therriault were Conerly Trophy finalists last season. The award is voted on by 52 media members from the state.
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