By David Brandt
AP Sports Writer
JACKSON – Mississippi State left guard Gabe Jackson was named the winner of the Conerly Trophy on Tuesday night, becoming the first offensive lineman to earn the honor in its 18-year history.
The 6-foot-4, 340-pound Jackson won out in a field of five finalists, including Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, during the ceremony at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
The other three finalists were Alcorn State’s Arnold Walker, Jackson State’s Clayton Moore and Millsaps’ Mike Barthelemy.
Plenty of talented offensive linemen have come through Mississippi over the past two decades, including first-round NFL draft picks Michael Oher and Derek Sherrod, but Jackson is the first to take home the Conerly.
Jackson admitted winning was hard to believe, especially considering offensive linemen are often among the most anonymous players on the field.
“It probably will (sink in) later on tonight, but I’m still enjoying the moment right now,” he said.
Jackson is the first Mississippi State player to win since linebacker Chris White and running back Anthony Dixon were honored in 2009 and 2010.
“(Jackson) was in our first recruiting class,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “That was a real special group to me. I showed up and they believed. They bought in and now they’ve had a lot of success – four straight bowls. It’s special.”
Jackson’s presence was never more obvious for Mississippi State than in the final minutes of the Egg Bowl, which the Bulldogs won 17-10 in overtime. Mississippi State scored the game-winning touchdown on Dak Prescott’s 4-yard run, and the path to the end zone was easy thanks to Jackson clearing the way.
“Dak said ‘Give me the ball, I’m going to score,”’ Mullen said. “So then it was pretty easy to figure out which way we were going to run.”
Jackson’s closest competition for the Conerly was Wallace, who was trying to become the award’s first back-to-back winner. The junior quarterback has thrown for 3,090 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season, but had a bad performance in the Egg Bowl, with three interceptions and a lost fumble in overtime.
Wallace said Jackson was deserving of the award and he had little doubt the Egg Bowl result was a big factor in the Conerly result.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Wallace said. “I had the worst game I probably played in my career and I think that’s what cost me. But it happens like that. We’ve just got to grow and be better.”