Hayden Named to Jim Thorpe Award Preseason Watch List
July 13, 2012
HOUSTON - University of Houston senior cornerback D.J. Hayden was one of 35 student-athletes to be named to the Preseason Watch List for the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award, presented annually to the nation's top collegiate defensive back.
Hayden made an immediate impact in his first season at Houston in 2011, earning Conference USA Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors to help lead the Cougars to a record-breaking 13 victories.
The Houston native paced the team with 11 passes broken up and finished fifth on the squad with two interceptions. He also led the club with five forced fumbles to go along with 66 tackles and eight tackles for loss.
Hayden shined in the second half of the season, returning an interception 54 yards for a touchdown at UAB before stringing together five-straight games with a forced fumble to end the season. In Houston's 30-14 victory over No. 23 Penn State in the 2012 TicketCity Bowl, Hayden forced a fumble to go with two tackles for loss.
Prior to starring at Houston, Hayden played two seasons at Navarro Junior College where he helped lead the Bulldogs to the 2010 NJCAA national championship.
Hayden is the third Cougar to be named to a preseason watch list this summer. Junior running back Charles Sims was named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation's top collegiate football player, while junior Richie Leone was selected to the watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which recognizes the top collegiate punter.
ABOUT THE THORPE AWARD
The Thorpe Award is named after history's greatest athlete, Jim Thorpe, and is presented by the Jim Thorpe Association in Oklahoma City. Thorpe excelled at every sport in which he competed, including football at which he played on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The 2012 Olympics mark the 100-year anniversary of Thorpe winning gold in the decathlon and pentathlon at the Stockholm Olympics.
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ABOUT THE COUGARS
Running back Charles Sims led the Cougars in 2011 with 821 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. The electrifying junior also was a receiving threat out of the backfield, hauling in 51 catches for 575 yards and four scores to rank fourth on the team.
Sophomore linebacker Derrick Mathews finished second among the Cougars with 106 tackles during his first collegiate season, while senior linebacker Phillip Steward led the team with six interceptions and added 77 tackles.
After sitting out as a redshirt a year ago, sophomore quarterback David Piland will take the reins from NCAA record-setting signal-caller Case Keenum. Starting most of the 2010 season, Piland threw for 2,641 yards and 14 touchdowns on 201-of-345 passing during his true freshman season.