WKU senior defensive back Joe Brown became the sixth Hilltopper named to a preseason national watch list on Friday as he earned a spot on the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award Watch List, the nation’s top award for a collegiate defensive back.

WKU Hilltoppers defensive back Joe Brown (7) intercepts the pass of Marshall Thundering Herd quarterback Garet Morrell (12) and goes 51 yards on the return during an NCAA football game between the WKU Hilltoppers vs Marshall Thundering Heard, Saturday November 26, 2016 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington West Virginia. (Photos by Steve Roberts/WKU Athletics)

An All-Conference USA Second Teamer in 2016, the senior from Louisville, Ky., started 10 games for the Hilltoppers and appeared in all 14 at cornerback as a true junior. His 10 pass breakups led the team while his 11 passes defended tied for the team lead. Brown tallied 43 tackles (34 solo) on the season, the sixth-most by any Hilltopper, to go along with four tackles for loss and two sacks.

Against Marshall in the regular season finale, Brown had a 51-yard interception return and recovered a blocked extra point in the third quarter and returned it 96 yards for two points. Against North Texas, Brown’s strip-sack of quarterback Mason Fine in the second quarter resulted in a Hilltopper touchdown on the next offensive play.

Brown, who began his career as a running back for WKU in 2014, has started 14 games over his career – all at defensive back – and has appeared in 36 games overall. He is WKU’s first Thorpe Award Watch Lister since Cam Thomas prior to the 2014 season.

The Thorpe Award is one of the most coveted awards in college football. It is awarded to the best defensive back in college football based on performance on the field, athletic ability and character. The award was established in 1986 and is named after history’s greatest all-around athlete, Jim Thorpe. Thorpe excelled not only as a running back, passer, and kicker on the offensive side of the ball; but also stood out as a defensive back. In addition to his legendary performance on the football field, Thorpe played professional baseball and won Olympic gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon.

Brown joins five other Hilltoppers on national watch lists as the preseason lists began to announce their early leaders on Monday. The National College Football Awards Association member program will announce watch list members from July 10-20 ahead of the 2017 season.

Hilltoppers on National Watch Lists
DB Joe Brown: Jim Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)
P Jake Collins: Ray Guy Award (Top punter)
OL Dennis Edwards: Rimington Trophy (Top center)
K Skyler Simcox: Lou Groza Award (Top kicker)
DB Marcus Ward: AFCA Good Works Team
QB Mike White: Maxwell Award (Top player)

How to Follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Hilltopper Football, follow the program via social media @WKUFootball on Twitter and Facebook.


Kyle Neaves
Associate Athletic Director, Athletic Communications/Media Relations
WKU Athletics