NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt junior linebacker Anfernee Orji was named to the preseason watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, an honor given annually to the top defensive player in the nation by the Maxwell Football Club. The award is sponsored by Mammoth Tech and The Athletes’ Corner.
It is the first career selection for Orji on the Bednarik Award watch list. Orji was named a Phil Steele Preseason All-SEC selection (fourth team) earlier this summer.
A native of Rockwall, Texas, Orji returns after starting all nine games in 2020 and pacing the team in tackles with 66 to rank 16th in the SEC in tackles per game (7.3). In 18 career games (nine starts), Orji has tallied 72 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack, three pass breakups, one caused fumble and one quarterback pressure.
Last fall, Orji finished the campaign with 66 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two pass breakups and one caused fumble. He carded nine or more tackles three times with a career-high 13 in the home finale against Tennessee, marking the most for a Commodore in 2020.
Orji recorded his first career forced fumble at Kentucky and registered nine stops apiece against No. 6/5 Florida and Mississippi State.
The Bednarik Award has been presented to the college defensive player of the year since 1995. Chuck Bednarik, former standout at Penn and with the Philadelphia Eagles, is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 1969 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 1967.
The Bednarik Award watch list comprises 90 candidates. Last year’s winner Zaven Collins (Tulsa) and fellow finalists Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) and Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) have all moved on to the NFL.
The Commodores are set to kick off the 2021 season by hosting East Tennessee State at 7 p.m. on Sept. 4. Season tickets, mini plans and single-game tickets are available through the Vanderbilt ticket office.
Vanderbilt Stadium is expected to operate at 100 percent capacity for the 2021 campaign. Following revised CDC recommendations indicating that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or physically distance, Vanderbilt updated many of its protocols effective May 25, including that gathering size limits will be lifted for outdoor gatherings.
Vanderbilt will continue to monitor public health guidance and rely on experts, including the CDC, Nashville Metro Public Health, and leaders at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the School of Nursing.
Vanderbilt Student-Athletes on 2021 NCFAA Watch Lists
Bednarik Award: Anfernee Orji