CB Julian Love embraces campaign to make him Notre Dame's first Jim Thorpe Award winner

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Julian Love didn’t have signs planted in front yards across South Bend, but the star Notre Dame cornerback recently embraced the process of campaigning.

Love, a junior, was named one of three finalists for the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award, given to college football’s top defensive back, back in November. A panel of more than 50 sports writers, broadcasters, former players and coaches have voted to determine the winner of the award.

Before the winner is announced Thursday on ESPN’s Home Depot College Football Awards (7 p.m. EST), Love already knows he received one vote from the fans. Earlier this month the Thorpe Award allowed the public to weigh in. Love received 98,711 votes to beat out Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker (80,745) and LSU cornerback Greedy Williams (39,156).

Love, who will attend the awards show at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, received one extra vote in the officially tally as a result.

“To see that nearly 100,000 people voted, it’s amazing,” Love said Sunday. “It’s crazy the reach that that got, and it’s pretty cool.”

When he first learned of the fan vote, Love wasn’t sure how he’d handle it. Then his mom and girlfriend convinced him to embrace it.

“It kind of was uncomfortable for me at first to really openly campaign for votes for the fan vote aspect,” Love said. “It was definitely weird, and it was my mom calling me, and my girlfriend telling me like, ‘Why not go all out? You’re in it for a reason. Why not do all that you can, text everybody that you can to see if everybody can spread the word?’”

Love asked for votes on Twitter and Instagram and his teammates helped lead the charge. Several of them posted videos and tweets encouraging people to vote for Love.

Love himself encouraged fans to spread the word. He reposted Instagram stories from fans on his own Instagram story.

“(I was) trying to be as interactive with as many fans as I can, and everyone was sending it out,” Love said. “Between my godmother, my mom, my sister, and girlfriend, they probably alone had like 20,000 votes, constantly refreshing trying to vote, which is special, a lot of loved ones.”

Love certainly has an argument to receive the award Thursday night. Love finished the regular season with 61 tackles, three tackles for a loss, three fumble recoveries, one interception, 15 pass breakups, one touchdown on a fumble return and one two-point conversion on a blocked extra point return.

Love recorded more tackles, tackles for a loss, fumble recoveries and pass breakups than Baker and Williams. No Notre Dame player has won the Thorpe Award since its establishment in 1986.

Hardware watch

Love and Brian Kelly, the Home Depot Coach of the Year, will be joined in Atlanta by linebacker Drue Tranquill and tight end Nic Weishar.

On Tuesday, Tranquill was named the winner of the Wuerffel Trophy, which recognizes community service. Weishar was named the captain of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes good works and a commitment to giving back to others, also on Tuesday.

• The winner of the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation’s top center, will be announced during the Red Carpet Special at 6 p.m. EST on ESPNU. Notre Dame’s Sam Mustipher is one of three finalists along with Alabama’s Ross Pierschbacher and N.C. State’s Garrett Bradbury.

• The Broyles Award was given to Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley on Thursday. Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long was one of five finalists for the honor given to college football’s top assistant coach.

• Notre Dame won’t win the Joe Moore Award in back-to-back seasons. Three teams — Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma — were named as finalists for the most outstanding offensive line unit in the country. The Irish, named as one of 10 semifinalists for 2018, won the award last season.

• Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins beat out Tranquill and 11 other finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy. The award given by the National Football Foundation honors a combination of academic success, football performance and community leadership.

Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love, tackling Florida State wide receiver Tamorrion Terry Nov. 10, has more tackles than both other Jim Thorpe Award finalists.