HOUSTON – Former Seminole defensive back Derwin James is one of the final 21 players up for the Lombardi Award, given to the nation’s top player. James, from Haines City, Fla., was a first-team All-American as a redshirt sophomore in 2017 before declaring for the NFL Draft last month.
The Lombardi Award, formerly presented to the top defensive lineman or linebacker, will be presented regardless of position based on performance, leadership, character, and resiliency. Up to seven finalists will be announced Monday, January 22, with the award presented January 27 by the Lombardi Foundation.
James finished 2017 second among Seminole defenders with 84 tackles, adding 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions (one returned 41 yards for a touchdown), a team-high 11 pass breakups and a blocked field goal against Syracuse.
James entered 2017 among the nation’s top players, despite playing just two games in 2016 before a season-ending knee injury. James was named a first-team All-ACC selection by the ACC, the Associated Press and Pro Football Focus. He was also a Bednarik Award and Thorpe Award semifinalist and a Lott IMPACT Trophy quarterfinalist.
James’ two interceptions tied for the team high in 2017. In FSU’s 27-24 win against Syracuse on Nov. 4, James recorded an interception on Syracuse’s opening drive and ended the game with a blocked field goal that would have tied the game. Against Delaware State, James scored his first touchdown on a 41-yard interception return, one of five non-offensive touchdowns for FSU in 2017, second-most in the country.
James set a season high with 13 tackles at Boston College, one shy of his career-high 14 against Houston in the 2015 Peach Bowl. On special teams, James averaged 28.3 yards per kickoff return, with a career-high 49-yarder coming against NC State on Sept. 23.