NEW YORK - Columbia's 2011 football team awards dinner were announced at the team's annual year-end banquet in Low Library on December 4.
Senior linebacker Nick Mistretta earned the Phil Fusco Award. The Fusco Award is given annually to a player who exhibits overall leadership. He must have been an obvious leader on and off the field. The award is not restricted to athletics leadership, but includes academic leadership as well.
Junior defensive back Steven Grassa gained the John J. Cirigliano Ironman Award. This award is given to a player who overcomes adversity to become a strong contributor to the team on the field.
Sophomore tight end Hamilton Garner received the Lou Little Coaches Most Improved Award. This award is about progress. It is awarded to a player who, through extraordinary efforts, improved his play and maximized his position.
Senior fullback Nico Papas was the recipient of the Maniatty-Remmer Unsung Hero Award. This award is given to a player whose role is not always obvious to the outside observer, but without his contributions, the team would not be as successful. The award's recipient strives to be a leader and performs his assignments to the best of his ability without expecting or requiring any public recognition.
Senior Jeff Adams earned the Jack Armstrong Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award. A three-time All-Ivy League first team selection, Adams was a consistently dominant force at left tackle for the Lions throughout his career. The Western Springs, Ill. native is considered one the nation's top offensive linemen in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Rookie return specialist and running back Alec Fisher received the Ken Germann Freshman Award, awarded to the most accomplished and outstanding freshman football player. Fisher was Columbia's primary kick returner and punt returner in 2011, grabbing hold of that role early in the season.
Senior running back David Chao gained the Special Forces Award. The award is given to the player who excelled specifically on special teams. His high level effort and performance was constant and his leadership obvious and irreplaceable.
Murphy, a fifth-year senior, shared kick return duties with Fisher this year and started a number of games at cornerback for the Lions. Murphy averaged 21.4 yards per kick return and finished with 32 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups in 10 games in 2011.
Williams, converted to wide receiver after his sophomore season, had an outstanding senior season for Columbia. Williams was the Lions' leading receiver with 44 receptions, 595 yards and four touchdowns in 2011. He started every game for Columbia and made a number of clutch catches and big plays throughout the season.
Senior defensive back Neil Schuster earned the Most Valuable Defensive Player Award. Schuster started all 10 games for Columbia at the safety position and led the Lions in tackles with 67. Four of those tackles went for a loss. Always around the football, Schuster had an interception, a forced fumble, fumble recovery, six pass breakups and seven passes defended.
Junior quarterback Sean Brackett was the recipient of the Most Valuable Offensive Player Award and the Sid Luckman Most Valuable Player Award. Despite playing through injury most of the season, Brackett had another fantastic season as the Lions' signal caller. He played in nine games for the Lions, throwing for 1,831 yards with 15 touchdowns. Brackett averaged 203.4 passing yards per game and his quarterback efficiency rating on the year was 107.1. The dual threat quarterback led Columbia in rushing for the second straight year with 379 yards on the ground and six rushing touchdowns.
To cap the awards, the Campbell-Murff Captains Awards were presented to Columbia's four captains in 2011: senior wide receiver Mike Stephens, junior quarterback Sean Brackett, senior offensive lineman Bob Hauschildt and senior defensive back Ross Morand.