Rick Cleveland

How well do you know your Conerly Trophy history?

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) tackled by Baltimore Ravens strong safety Eric Weddle, Sunday, Nov. 20, in Arlington, Texas.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) tackled by Baltimore Ravens strong safety Eric Weddle, Sunday, Nov. 20, in Arlington, Texas. AP

You can make a strong case that the two hottest teams in the NFL are the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. Both keep winning. Both boast excellent play at the all-important quarterback position.

And for our purposes today, both are quarterbacked by the only two-time winners of the C Spire Conerly Trophy, which goes annually to the most outstanding college football player in Mississippi.

Eli Manning of the Giants and Ole Miss won it as a sophomore in 2001 and again as a senior in 2003. Dak Prescott of the Cowboys and Mississippi State is the only winner of back-to-back Conerly awards, which he received in 2014 and 2015.

The C Spire Conerly Trophy, co-sponsored by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, has become a Mississippi tradition. They’ll give away the 21st Conerly on Nov. 29 at the Clarksdale Country Club.

Why Clarksdale? Traditionally, the C Spire awards in all sports are presented at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson, but the banquets are moved around from time to time.

This year, the Conerly is being held in the hometown of its namesake, the late Chunkin’ Charlie Conerly, who played at Ole Miss, went off to become a hero in World War II, then returned to be an All-American for John Vaught’s first Ole Miss team.

Legend has it that Vaught said he would only take the job if Conerly, already drafted by the Washington Redskins, returned to play his senior season. Conerly did return and Ole Miss won the first of Vaught’s six SEC championships.

Conerly then went on to a sparkling NFL career that included Rookie of the Year honors and leading the Giants to three championship games and one league title. He made All-Pro three times and was MVP once.

He is in the College Football Hall of Fame, but somehow he has never been selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s a bone to pick another day. Today’s topic is the trophy that bears his name and it has established quite the history in over two decades.

In fact, let’s see how well you know your C Spire Conerly Trophy history. You’ll find the answers at the end of the column.

  • 1. Eli Manning won the Conerly in 2001 and 2003, so who won the award in 2002, which would have been Manning’s junior season?

a) Delta State QB Scott Eyster, b) Mississippi State DB Fred Smoot, c) Southern Miss LB Rod Davis

  • 2. Only one interior lineman has ever won the Conerly. Who was he?

a) Peria Jerry of Ole Miss, b) Gabe Jackson of MSU, c) Michael Oher, Ole Miss

  • 3. The 2000 Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated Florida, Auburn and Alabama and produced two Conerly finalists in Dicenzo Miller and Fred Smoot, but who won the Conerly that year?

a) Josh Bright, Delta State; b) Deuce McAllister, Ole Miss; c) Adalius Thomas, USM

  • 4. Who won the first Conerly Trophy in 1996, which also was the year the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum opened?

a) Ole Miss TE Kris Mangum, b) USM LB Marchant Kenney, c) Delta State RB Tregnel Thomas

  • 5. Quarterbacks have won the Conerly nine times. What position has won the trophy the second-most times with six?

a) running back, b) linebacker, c) wide receiver

  • 6. Eli Manning was a three-time finalist for the award. Who was the only four-time finalist for the Conerly Trophy?

a) Scott Eyster, DSU quarterback; b) Josh Bright, DSU quarterback; c) Tregnel Thomas, DSU running back

  • 7. Awards banquets have been held in Jackson, Biloxi, Clarksdale and one other Mississippi city. What is the other city?

a) Hattiesburg, b) Vicksburg, c) Tunica

  • 8. Which school has produced the most Conerly winners?

a) Mississippi State with 7, b) Ole Miss with 6, c) Southern Miss with 4

Answers: 1. c) Rod Davis; 2. b) Gabe Jackson; 3. a) Josh Bright; 4. c) Tregnel Thomas; 5. a) running back, 6. a) Scott Eyster; 7. c) Tunica. 8. a) Mississippi State

For ticket information and other details about the 2016 Conerly presentation, contact the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum at 1-800-280-FAME (3263), 601-982-8264 or generalinfo@msfame.com.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

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