Former University of Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins added a final but significant honor to his lengthy Hurricane resume Wednesday, when he was announced as the recipient of the Lombardi Award.
Given to the FBS player who best exemplifies the discipline of Vince Lombardi and outstanding performance and ability, the award is presented to the top player in college football regardless of position. The other finalists were Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Coastal Carolina defensive end Tarron Jackson and Alabama receiver Devonta Smith.
“Congratulations, Zaven!” TU coach Philip Montgomery tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “So proud and happy for you and your family. Looking forward to seeing where the journey leads you!”
The award was formerly given to the best college football defensive lineman or linebacker up until 2017. Other Oklahomans to win the award were University of Oklahoma defensive linemen Lee Roy Selmon (1975) and Tony Casillas (1985).
Since 2017, the winners have been Stanford running back Bryce Love (2017), Oregon safety Ugochukwu Amadi (2018) and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (2019).
Collins, a Hominy native who concluded his TU career in December as a fourth-year junior, also won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award, both given to the nation’s top defender, and was the runner-up for the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
He was a unanimous first-team All-American, only the second in program history, and was defensive player of the year in the American Athletic Conference, becoming the first in league history to unanimously receive a player of the year honor.
In eight games in 2020, Collins totaled 53 tackles including 11.5 for lost yardage and four sacks, four interceptions (including two pick-sixes), a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a safety.