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Jimmy Morrissey wins 2020 Burlsworth Trophy

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The award recognizes the nation's top player who began their career as a walk-on, which Morrissey did in 2016

NCAA Football: Austin Peay at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt center Jimmy Morrissey was honored on Monday afternoon as the winner of the Burlsworth Trophy for the 2020 season. The award is issued annually to the most outstanding college football player in the nation who began their career as a walk-on.

Morrissey’s career at Pitt began in 2016, when he joined the team as a walk-on at training camp. Prior to that, he had been a largely overlooked offensive line recruit out of La Salle College High School in the Philadelphia Catholic League, and he had not been assigned a star rating by Rivals, 247Sports or ESPN. As a result, his only offers were from Patriot League programs Bucknell, Colgate and Lehigh.

However, Morrissey decided to take a risk and forgo those scholarship offers in order to take a shot at making the Pitt roster. And not only did Morrissey make the team, but he would also go on to earn himself a scholarship, establish himself as one of the fiercest competitors in the ACC and post a solid career as a four-year starter at center for Pitt.

After securing first-string status in 2017, Morrissey made 57 starts at center and earned All-ACC honors three times. His first All-ACC nod came in 2018, when he played a key role in paving the way for a Pitt rushing attack that ranked 18th in the nation and averaged 227.9 yards per game. His second and third came in 2019 and 2020, when he anchored a Pitt line tasked with keeping Kenny Pickett upright in a new-look pass-heavy Panthers offense.

To his credit, Morrissey excelled as both a run-blocker and in pass protection, as he was part of Pitt’s record-setting 52-22 win at Virginia Tech in 2018 in which the Panthers ran for 492 yards in a single game and accrued 654 total yards. In addition to that, Morrissey did not give up a single sack in 2019 and was graded as Pitt’s best run-blocker by Pro Football Focus. And in 2020, he was once again a standout on an otherwise shaky Pitt offensive line.

The 6’3”, 305-pound center declared for the 2021 NFL draft in December and once again finds himself unheralded by analysts, as ESPN’s No. 182 overall recruit with a grade of 35 on a scale of 100. But with that said, Morrissey has taken such criticism in stride and competed with a chip on his shoulder as a result of it in the past. And now, he may well get a shot at repeating that feat in the NFL.