Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib won the Lombardi Award (top lineman) on Wednesday night, capping a meteoric rise of a college career that began as a walk-on, and ended with a trophy named for a coach who espoused the traits college walk-ons can't do without: effort, determination, resilience.
Nassib led the NCAA in sacks with 15.5 this season, anchoring the Nittany Lions' pass rush at 6-foot-7, 270 pounds. Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien, who moved Nassib from walk-on to scholarship status while coaching at PSU in 2013, admitted this week that he underestimated the 2015 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year when he coached in Happy Valley. Nassib made 46 total tackles this season, 19.5 of them for losses, and forced a nation-high six fumbles.
As a senior, Nassib will be eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft. Other finalists for the award were Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson.
The Lombardi Award, named for legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, has been presented to college football's top lineman or linebacker since 1970. Notable past winners include Randy White, Cornelius Bennett, Chris Spielman, Warren Sapp, Orlando Pace, Julius Peppers, Ndamukong Suh and Luke Kuechly.