Pitt defensive lineman Calijah Kancey was placed on the watch list for the Bednarik Award on Monday morning. The award is given to the best defensive player in college football as voted on by members of the Maxwell Football Club on an annual basis.
Kancey is one of seven ACC players included on the watch list and the only Pitt representative. Also included from the ACC were Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, Clemson safety Nolan Turner, Florida State linebacker Amari Gainer, Miami safety Bubba Bolden, NC State linebacker Payton Wilson and North Carolina linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel.
In 2020, Kancey appeared in all 11 of Pitt’s games and made four starts as a redshirt freshman. And in that span, he came up with 1.5 sacks, seven tackles for losses, 27 tackles and two pass breakups. For his efforts, the former Miami Northwestern High School standout earned freshman All-America honors from the Athletic, Rivals and the Football Writers Association of America.
This season, the 6’0”, 270-pound lineman is expected to take on a larger role at Pitt, and many believe he can build on the program’s tradition of defensive dominance. In addition to earning a spot on the Bednarik Award watch list from the Maxwell Football Club, Kancey was also named a preseason All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
The last recipient of the Bednarik Award was Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins in 2020. And the last time an ACC player won the award was in 2013, when it went to Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald. Donald is the only player from Pitt to earn the Bednarik Award in its 26-year history, and he is one of three ACC players to earn the honor, with the others being Julius Peppers of North Carolina in 2001 and E.J. Henderson of Maryland in 2002.