ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy football banquet will not be held this year due to the coronavirus, however head coach Ken Niumatalolo announced the annual award winners March 27.
Navy finished the 2019 campaign with a school-record tying 11 wins against just two losses, won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy by beating both Air Force and Army, tied for the American Athletic Conference west division title and won the Liberty Bowl. Additionally, Navy’s eight-game improvement from the previous year marked the second-biggest turnaround in FBS history.
Senior quarterback Malcolm Perry (Clarksville, Tenn.) was named the winner of the E.E. “Rip” Miller Award, which is presented to the season’s most valuable player as voted on by his teammates. Perry also won the award in 2017 and 2018.
Perry, who served as one of Navy’s four captains, rushed for a school-record and FBS record (by a quarterback) 2,017 yards and 21 touchdowns while completing 48 of his 86 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns. His 181.58 passing efficiency mark was also a Navy record.
Perry’s 11 100-yard rushing games were a school record, as were his 10-consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
Perry set a program record for most 200-yard rushing games in a season with three, including his epic Army-Navy game-record 304 yards in the Mids’ 31-7 rout of Army.
Perry led the country in explosive runs (runs of 20 yards or more) with 26, while his 21 rushing touchdowns were the most in the FBS this season by a quarterback, third most by any player and the 11th most in FBS history by a quarterback.
Perry was named the American Athletic Conference and ECAC Offensive Player of the Year and was the Liberty Bowl and Army-Navy Game Most Valuable Player.
Perry was also named the winner of the Napoleon McCallum Award, which is presented to the Navy varsity football player of the graduating class who has gained the most all-purpose yards in his career.
Perry finished his career with 5,320 all-purpose yards which ranks second all-time in school history next to McCallum.
Senior raider Nizaire Cromartie (Greensboro, N.C.) was named the winner of the Roger Staubach Award, which is presented to the varsity football player who demonstrated consistent, outstanding leadership and an “Expect to Win” attitude in contributing to the team’s success during the season and embodied honor, courage and commitment on and off the playing field.
Cromartie, who served as one of the Mids’ four captains, anchored a remarkable turnaround of the Navy defense with 38 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
The Mids improved in almost every category on the defensive side of the football, including third down defense (121st to 20th), rushing defense (90th to 10th), passing defense (75th to 39th), total defense (86th to 16th), scoring defense (103rd to 34th), pass efficiency defense (117th to 68th), sacks (129th to 55th) and tackles for a loss (129th to 53rd).
Despite facing the second, third and 11th-best rushing offense’s in the country, Navy finished 10th in the nation against the run (105.8 yards per game), while it also finished 10th in three-and-outs, getting the opposing offense’s off the field in three plays or less on 36 percent of its drives.
Senior slot back Travis Brannan (Austin, Texas) was named the winner of the Cmdr. Ralph Sentmann Award, which honors the member of the graduating class from the varsity football team who has achieved the highest ranking in academic order of merit.
Brannan carries a 4.0 grade-point average while majoring in ocean engineering and ranks first in the senior class in academic order of merit. He, along with teammate Eric Cal, were named First-Team Academic All-Americans by the College Sports Information Directors of America. It is the first time in school history that Navy has had two football players earn First-Team Academic All-America honors in the same year.
Brannan also took home the Jeffrey R. Korn Memorial Scholar-Athlete Award, which is given annually to the first classman on the team who has demonstrated excellence both in the classroom and on the football field.
Senior linebacker Paul Carothers (Flowery Branch, Ga.), who served as one of four captains on the team, was named the recipient of the First Lieutenant Ron Winchester Unsung Hero Award, which is presented to an unheralded senior recognized as an overachiever and role model as selected by a vote of his teammates.
Carothers played in all 13 games this year, starting seven, and was one of the emotional leaders of the team. He finished the year fourth on the team in tackles with 61 and added 8.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks.
Senior offensive guard TJ Salu (Portland, Ore.) was named the winner of the Cooke Award, which is given to the player who has done the most to promote team spirit.
Salu overcame multiple injuries and surgeries throughout his career to return and play in all 13 games his senior year. Regardless of what was thrown his way, Salu was known to never have a bad day and was a positive influence in and out of the locker room all four years.
Senior nose guard Jackson Pittman (Antioch, Tenn.) was the recipient of the Joe Bellino Award, which is presented to the varsity football player whose inspiring on-the-field performance made a significant impact on the team and contributed to its overall success during the season.
Pittman was a rare four-year letterwinner and played in 51 of a possible 52 games in his career, a remarkable run of durability when you consider the position he played. He started the final 38 games of his career, recording 95 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles. He saved his best for last, dominating the line of scrimmage in Navy’s blowout win over Army where he posted five tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss.
Senior center Ford Higgins (Norcross, Ga.), who served as one of Navy’s four captains, was awarded the Outstanding Lineman Award, presented annually to a member of the graduating class who, as a football interior lineman, has excelled as a student-athlete and contributed to the overall team leadership and spirit.
Higgins, who started the final 26 games of his career, was the anchor of one of the best Navy offensive lines in recent memory. The Mids led the nation in rushing in 2019, averaging a school-record 360.5 yards per game. It was the first time Navy led the nation in rushing since 2008 and broke the previous school record by more than nine yards per game.
The Mids also set school records for total rushing yards (4,687), rushing yards per attempt (6.1) and total offense yards per game (455.8), while tying the school record for total offense yards per play (6.8).
Navy led the nation in most rushing plays of 10 yards or more (140), 20 yards or more (51), 30 yards or more (24) and 50 yards or more (10).
Freshman quarterback Maasai Maynor (North Brunswick, N.J.) was awarded the Collins/Roos Class of 1949 Junior Varsity MVP Award, presented annually to the most valuable player on the junior varsity football team as chosen by a vote of his teammates.
A 2019 graduate of Saint Peter’s Preparatory School, Maynor was a two-sport athlete who earned letters in football (4) and track & field (3).
— Navy Athletics press release
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