COLUMBIA, Mo. • Missouri handed out individual awards at Sunday’s team banquet, including season MVP honors for defensive end Michael Sam. Heading into Saturday’s SEC championship game against Auburn, the senior defensive end has an SEC-best 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Sam needs one more sack to match Aldon Smith’s single-season Mizzou record, set in 2009.
“He was a good player a year ago,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Sunday. “He went from a good to a great player. He did that through remarkable determination and effort, relentless competitiveness play after play after play. So proud of him. Obviously he's a very good athlete. He can run. He's strong. He's physical. … When you do it to the level he's done it, it's because you play competitively at a different level than the people you're playing against play in, play out. That's what Michael Sam has done.”
Here are the other team awards handed out Sunday:
Don Faurot Most Inspirational Player: offensive guard Max Copeland.
Unsung Hero Award: defensive tackle Marvin Foster, cornerback Randy Ponder.
Underclassman Leadership Award: defensive end Shane Ray, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.
Curtis Jones Champion of the Year: safety Matt White.
Hammer Award (for most big hits): linebacker Andrew Wilson.
Scholar Athlete: defensive tackle Matt Hoch.
Performance Athlete of the Year: Copeland
Special Forces: safety Braylon Webb.
Missouri MO Award: Wilson.
Freshman of the Year: quarterback Maty Mauk, defensive lineman Harold Brantley.
Ed "Brick" Travis Interior Lineman: right tackle Mitch Morse, defensive lineman Kony Ealy.
Walk-On of the Year: long snapper Jake Hurrell.
St. Louis Player of the Year: defensive end Markus Golden.
Kansas City Player of the Year: receiver Marcus Lucas.
Offensive lineman of the year: left tackle Justin Britt.
Defensive lineman: Sam.
Cornerback: E.J. Gaines.
Wide receiver: L'Damian Washington.
Tight end: Eric Waters.
Running back: Henry Josey.
Quarterback: James Franklin.
After shutting down one of the country’s most explosive wide receivers Saturday, Gaines was named the Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the week Monday, as announced by the league office.
Gaines helped hold Texas A&M’s Mike Evans to four catches for a career-low 8 yards in the Tigers’ 28-21 victory on Faurot Field.
Gaines is the third Missouri player to earn SEC defensive player of the week honors, along with linebacker Kentrell Brothers and defensive end Sam. Sam, Ealy and Golden have also won the SEC’s weekly defensive line award. Brantley has won the special teams award, Britt has won the offensive lineman award and Mauk has won the weekly freshman award twice.
Gaines won the Big 12 defensive player of the week award for his performance against Texas A&M in 2011.