By CHRIS TALBOTT
The Associated Press
JACKSON – Southern Miss tailback Damion Fletcher is the winner of the Conerly Trophy given to Mississippi's top college football player.
The sophomore, who beat out Mississippi State's Titus Brown and Anthony Dixon during a ceremony Tuesday night, has two years remaining with most school rushing records within easy reach.
When asked what he'd do for an encore, Fletcher brought laughter and a round of applause from the crowd at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum.
“I guess we're just going to have to wait and see,” he joked.
The Biloxi native said receiving the award was a poignant moment since his coach Jeff Bower was in the audience.
Bower resigned Monday under pressure after 17 years with the Golden Eagles.
The last game together for the two will be the Papajohns.com Bowl on Dec. 22 in Birmingham, Ala.
Fletcher rushed for 1,491 yards this year, the second most in a single season. He also had 15 touchdowns and 22 catches for 177 yards.
His two-year total of 2,789 yards is a school record and he's just 806 rushing yards shy of Ben Garry's school-record 3,595.
Fletcher was also a Conerly finalist last season after rushing for 1,298 yards.
Bower was one of the few coaches who believed Fletcher could be a successful running back. Most wanted him to play defensive back. Fletcher learned that Bower would attend the ceremony Tuesday afternoon.
“It's real important to me,” Fletcher said. “This guy gave me a shot when nobody else would.”
Bower said Fletcher's success has been earned by hard work, but was unexpected nonetheless. He thought the agile tailback had promise, but didn't expect him to become an instant force in Conference USA.
“I guess he's been a little surprising, so don't give me all the credit for finding him,” Bower said.