DALLAS (FWAA) – The 2021 Football Writers Association of America All-America Team, presented in partnership with the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, is headlined by seven first-teamers from the four teams competing in the College Football Playoff, nine repeat All-Americans, six first-teamers from both the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences, six explosive wide receivers, a sensational freshman running back and a record-setting punter. There are 23 schools represented from nine Football Bowl Subdivision conferences on the first team and 37 different schools are represented on the complete 54-man team.
“The partnership between the FWAA and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is one we take a lot of pride in,” said Bry Patton, Chairman, Cotton Bowl Athletic Association and Cotton Bowl Foundation. “We’re honored to play a small role in celebrating the on-field accolades these student-athletes achieved this season.”
“The FWAA is proud to partner with the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic to highlight these amazing athletes, but it’s never an easy choice to whittle down the field,” said FWAA president Heather Dinich, a senior writer for ESPN.com. “What makes it so difficult is that there’s always – always – more than one deserving player at each position. This year’s combined team, though, reflects dominant seasons by both the Big Ten and the SEC, along with the Group of Five’s historic season, as a record 12 players were included.”
Alabama, the top seed in the College Football Playoff, has first-team selections and leads all schools with four on the combined team. Linebacker Will Anderson Jr., offensive lineman Evan Neal and quarterback Bryce Young made the first team with kick returner Jameson Williams on the second team. Anderson won the FWAA’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy this season, Neal is the latest Crimson Tide standout All-American on its offensive front and Young, the winner of the Maxwell Award and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Tuesday night, surged late with a dramatic comeback against Auburn and a record-setting performance in the SEC Championship Game. No one has averaged more yards per touch (22.6) than Williams this season, who is also a standout wide receiver.
The defensive secondary has two returning first-team All-Americans in Ahmad Gardner of Cincinnati and Kyle Hamilton of Notre Dame. Gardner is the first two-time FWAA All-American in Cincinnati history and Hamilton is the Irish’s first two-time FWAA All-American in 16 seasons (wide receiver Jeff Samardzija in 2005-06). Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, another two-time selection, moves to the first team after a second-team nod last year. Also from the secondary are App State defensive back Steven Jones Jr., the Mountaineers’ first All-American at the FBS level, and Jalen Pitre of Baylor, a second defensive first-teamer for the Bears of the last three seasons.
The four defensive linemen, collectively, may be the best group in the history of the team. Jordan Davis of Georgia, the Outland Trophy and Bednarik Award winner on the nation’s top defense, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, a Heisman Trophy finalist, along with Thibodeaux and Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV, the Big 12’s Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year with 11.5 sacks, make up a formidable front. Nakobe Dean, the Butkus Award winner at Georgia, and Devin Lloyd of Utah join Anderson as the first-team linebackers.
Back on offense, Doak Walker Award winner Kenneth Walker III of Michigan State has been the national leader in rushing for most of the season and is on the first team along with Syracuse’s eye-catching freshman, Sean Tucker. Walker is second in the FBS in rushing at 1,636 yards (136.3 ypg) with 18 touchdowns. Tucker, a second-year player with freshman eligibility, set the Orange’s single-season rushing mark at 1,496 yards, fourth nationally, with nine 100-yard games and 14 total touchdowns. Tucker becomes the first freshman running back on the first team since Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma in 2004 and the first freshman at any skill position on the first team since Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in 2013.
The standout wide receivers gave a menagerie of options to the FWAA voters. Ohio State gained two of the six spots. For the first time, the FWAA selected three receivers on each of its two teams and thus 12-man offensive teams. Garrett Wilson becomes a two-time All-American here after a second-team spot last year and Chris Olave is on the second unit. Pitt’s Jordan Addison, the Biletnikoff Award winner, caught more touchdowns (17) than any other player, keying the Panthers’ offensive resurgence this season. He’s on the first team and his quarterback, Kenny Pickett, leads off the second team. Purdue’s David Bell produced highlight plays that prompted two of the biggest upsets this season and earned first-team honors. Along with Olave, second-team receivers Jerreth Sterns of WKU caught 39 more passes than any other player and was the national leader in receiving yards, and Drake London of USC averaged 135.5 yards per game with seven touchdowns despite playing in only eight games due to injury.
Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa, the winner of the Rimington Trophy, returns to become a two-time All-America center, this year on the first team after a second-team nod in 2020. Ohio State lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere was the leader at the front of the nation’s top offensive team. Kentucky tackle Darian Kinnard led one of the four Joe Moore Award finalist units and Ikem Ekwonu is N.C. State’s second first-team lineman of the past four seasons.
Iowa was one of three schools (along with Georgia and Ohio State) to have three All-Americans. The Hawkeyes have linebacker Jack Campbell and defensive back Riley Moss on the second team and Georgia added offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer to the second team. Texas A&M and Iowa State have repeat members on the second team after first-team spots last year. The Aggies have players on both the second-team offensive (Kenyon Green) and defensive (DeMarvin Leal) lines, and running back Breece Hall gives Iowa State a pair of All-Americans for a second consecutive season.
Also from the second team, defensive lineman Arnold Ebiketie and defensive back Jaquan Brisker give Penn State a pair of FWAA All-Americans in the same season for the first time since 2008. Rounding out the eight schools that had a pair of honorees is punt return phenom Britain Covey at Utah, Oregon with defensive back Verone McKinley III and Baylor with offensive lineman Jacob Gall. Oklahoma State has its first defensive All-American since 2013 with linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez alongside Leo Chenal of Wisconsin on the second team. Offensive linemen Zach Tom of Wake Forest and Olusegun Oluwatimi of Virginia, along with defensive lineman Jermaine Johnson II of Florida State, were three of the ACC’s seven selections, third-best among the conferences.
Rutgers has its first FWAA All-America selection since 2006 with punter Adam Korsak on the second team as well as Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis, the Tigers’ first All-American on special teams since Jeremy Maclin in 2007.
The so-called Group of Five schools put a record 12 players on the combined team – 22 percent of the total picks – and seven on the first team including all four special teams spots and both tight ends. Houston’s Marcus Jones, the Paul Hornung Award winner, repeats as the first-team punt returner and Sincere McCormick of UTSA repeats as a second-team All-America running back. Matt Araiza of San Diego State, currently the all-time leader in FBS history with a 51.4-yard season average, is the easy choice at punter following his selection as the Ray Guy Award winner. Colorado State tight end Trey McBride is the 20th-leading receiver nationally with 1,121 yards as the first-team selection and Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely on the second. McBride is the John Mackey Award winner.
Bowling Green’s field goal ace Nate Needham, 19 for 20 on field goal attempts, is the first-team kicker and USF’s Brian Battie, who had three kick return touchdowns, is the first-team kick returner and the only other freshman besides Tucker. One of the country’s interception leaders with five, second-team defensive back Ja’Quan McMillian is East Carolina’s first defensive All-American since 1991.
The Big Ten leads all conferences with 13 players on the combined teams from a spread of eight different schools, which also led all conferences. The SEC has 11 members from five different schools and the ACC had seven from six different schools. The Big 12 and Pac-12 had five members each, followed by the American Athletic (4), Mountain West (3), Conference USA and Sun Belt (2 each) and the Independents and Mid-American (1).
Many of the 2021 All-Americans had immediate impacts on their teams. Nearly one-fifth of the team – 10 of 54 players – were FWAA Freshman All-America selections earlier in their careers. Tops on that list is Anderson Jr., the 2021 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner and the 2020 FWAA Freshman Player of the Year, and Davis, who was on the 2018 FWAA Freshman All-America team. Six of the 10 – Bell, Ekwonu, Neal, Thibodeaux, Gardner and Hamilton – are first-teamers on the 2021 list. McCormick and McKinley are second-teamers.
Of the first-team members’ home states, California led the way with four followed by Florida and North Carolina with three each. On the complete 1st-2nd teams, California and Texas tied with seven each followed by Maryland and North Carolina with four and Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Iowa with three each.
The FWAA’s All-America Committee selected this 78th annual team based on nominations from the entire membership. This is the ninth season in the modern era (post-1950) that the FWAA has named a second team. For a fifth consecutive year, the FWAA has selected a 54-man full team, but the additional wide receivers were selected in lieu of recognizing all-purpose players this season.
2021 FWAA ALL-AMERICA FIRST TEAM
QB Bryce Young, Alabama (6-0, 194, So., Pasadena, Cailf.)
RB Sean Tucker, Syracuse (5-10, 210, Fr., Owings Mills, Md.)
RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State (5-10, 210, Jr., Arlington, Tenn.)
WR Jordan Addison, Pitt (6-0, 175, So., Frederick, Md.)
WR David Bell, Purdue (6-2, 205, Jr., Indianapolis, Ind.)
WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State (6-0, 192, Jr., Austin, Texas)
TE Trey McBride, Colorado State (6-4, 260, Sr., Fort Morgan, Colo.)
OL Ikem Ekwonu, N.C. State (6-4, 320, So., Charlotte, N.C.)
OL Darian Kinnard, Kentucky (6-5, 338, Sr., Knoxville, Tenn.)
OL Evan Neal, Alabama (6-7, 350, Jr., Okeechobee, Fla.)
OL Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State (6-5, 315, Jr., Tampa, Fla.)
C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa (6-3, 290, Jr., Solon, Iowa)
DL Jordan Davis, Georgia (6-6, 340, Sr., Charlotte, N.C.)
DL Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan (6-6, 265, Sr., Plymouth, Mich.)
DL Will McDonald IV, Iowa State (6-4, 245, Jr., Pewaukee, Wis.)
DL Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon (6-5, 258, So., Los Angeles, Calif.)
LB Will Anderson Jr., Alabama (6-4, 243, So., Hampton, Ga.)
LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia, (6-0, 225, Jr., Horn Lake, Miss.)
LB Devin Lloyd, Utah (6-3, 235, Jr., Chula Vista, Calif.)
DB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati (6-3, 200, Jr., Detroit, Mich.)
DB Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame (6-4, 220, Jr., Atlanta, Ga.)
DB Steven Jones Jr., App State (5-10, 180, Sr., Rockingham, N.C.)
DB Jalen Pitre, Baylor (6-0, 197, Sr., Stafford, Texas)
K Nate Needham, Bowling Green (6-1, 195, Sr., Chesterton, Ind.)
P Matt Araiza, San Diego State (6-2, 200, Jr., San Diego, Calif.)
KR Brian Battie, USF (5-8, 165, Fr., Sarasota, Fla.)
PR Marcus Jones, Houston (5-8, 185, Sr., Enterprise, Ala.)
FIRST TEAM ONLY BREAKDOWN
By School (23): Alabama 3; Georgia 2, Ohio State 2; App State, Baylor, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, Iowa, Iowa State, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Pitt, Purdue, San Diego State, Syracuse, USF, Utah 1.
By Conference (9): Big Ten 6, SEC 6, ACC 3, American Athletic 3, Big 12 2, Mountain West 2, Pac-12 2, Independents 1, Mid-American 1, Sun Belt 1.
By Class: Juniors 12, Seniors 8, Sophomores 5, Freshmen 2.
By Home State (14): California 4, Florida 3, North Carolina 3, Georgia 2, Indiana 2, Maryland 2, Michigan 2, Tennessee 2, Texas 2, Alabama 1, Colorado 1, Iowa 1, Mississippi 1, Wisconsin 1.
2021 FWAA ALL-AMERICA SECOND TEAM
Offense: QB Kenny Pickett, Pitt; RB Breece Hall, Iowa State; RB Sincere McCormick, UTSA; WR Drake London, USC; WR Chris Olave, Ohio State; WR Jerreth Sterns, WKU; TE Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina; OL Jacob Gall, Baylor; OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M; OL Jamaree Salyer, Georgia; OL Zach Tom, Wake Forest; C Olusegun Oluwatimi, Virginia. Defense: DL Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State; DL Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State; DL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M; DL Cameron Thomas, San Diego State; LB Jack Campbell, Iowa; LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin; LB Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State; DB Jaquan Brisker, Penn State; DB Verone McKinley III, Oregon; DB Ja’Quan McMillian, East Carolina; DB Riley Moss, Iowa. Specialists: K Harrison Mevis, Missouri; P Adam Korsak, Rutgers; KR Jameson Williams, Alabama; PR Britain Covey, Utah.
COMBINED FIRST AND SECOND TEAM BREAKDOWN
By School (37): Alabama 4; Georgia 3, Iowa 3, Ohio State 3; Baylor 2, Iowa State 2, Oregon 2, Penn State 2, Pitt 2, San Diego State 2, Texas A&M 2, Utah 2; App State, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina, Colorado State, East Carolina, Florida State, Houston, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, USC, USF, UTSA, Virginia, Wake Forest, WKU, Wisconsin 1.
By Conference (10): Big Ten 13, SEC 11, ACC 7, Big 12 5, Pac-12 5, American Athletic 4, Mountain West 3, Conference USA 2, Sun Belt 2, Independents 1, Mid-American 1.
By Class: Juniors 24, Seniors/Graduates 20, Sophomores 8, Freshmen 2.
By Home State (24): California 7, Texas 7, Maryland 4, North Carolina 4, Florida 3, Georgia 3, Indiana 3, Iowa 3, Michigan 2, Tennessee 2, Wisconsin 2, Alabama 1, Colorado 1, Kansas 1, Louisiana 1, Massachusetts 1, Minnesota 1, Mississippi 1, Missouri 1, New Jersey 1, Ohio 1, Oklahoma 1, Pennsylvania 1, Utah 1. (Australia 1).
The FWAA All-America Team was first selected in 1944, three years after the organization was formed. The FWAA’s inaugural team included Army’s Heisman Trophy tandem of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis and Georgia Tech’s Frank Broyles, who later became Arkansas’ head football coach and athletic director.
Since 1945, the FWAA All-America Team has been among the five teams used to formulate the NCAA’s annual consensus All-America team, which will be announced later this week. Since the 2002 season, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), The Associated Press, The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation have joined the FWAA as the five designated selectors by the NCAA.
Over the years, the FWAA team has highlighted all the game’s great players in several media forums. From 1946-70, LOOK magazine published the FWAA team and brought players and selected writers to New York City for a celebration. During that 25-year period, the FWAA team was introduced on national television shows by such noted hosts as Bob Hope, Steve Allen and Perry Como.
After LOOK folded, the FWAA started a long association with NCAA Films (later known as NCAA Productions), which produced a 30-minute television program. The team was part of ABC-TV’s 1981 College Football Series. From 1983-90, the team was introduced on either ABC or ESPN. In 2002 and ‘03, the All-America team was honored with a banquet at the Citrus Bowl.
The same bowl also was a sponsor when the team was featured on ABC and ESPN from different locations on Disney properties from 2004-07. From 2008-10, the team had been the subject of a one-hour ESPN special.
For seven decades the FWAA has selected an All-America team with the help of its members and an All-America Committee, which represents all the regions in the country. From that All-America team, the FWAA also selects the Outland Trophy winner (best interior lineman) and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner (best defensive player).
Some of the true greats of the writing profession have helped to select this team over the years: Grantland Rice, Bert McGrane, Blackie Sherrod, Furman Bisher, Pat Harmon, Fred Russell, Edwin Pope, Murray Olderman, Paul Zimmerman – and the list goes on and on. The FWAA All-America team is steeped in tradition and history and is selected by a writers’ group with those same attributes.