Empey named to 2021 Outland Trophy Watch List
DALLAS — The Football Writers Association of America today announced the preseason watch list for the 2021 Outland Trophy, recognizing BYU center James Empey among the candidates for the nation's top interior lineman.
Continuing a celebration of the award's 75th anniversary in 2021, the FWAA has recognized 80 returning standout interior linemen on offense or defense representing all 10 Division I FBS conferences and independents. This year's watch list includes 26 offensive tackles, 26 guards, 16 centers and 13 defensive tackles.
A repeat Outland Trophy Watch List honoree, Empey has been recognized as a candidate for the nation's top interior lineman each of the past two seasons. The 6-foot-4, 303-pound native of American Fork, Utah, has started in all 34 games he has played as BYU's leader on the offensive line.
In his first year on the field in 2018, Empey was rated the top freshman center in the nation by Pro Football Focus while earning FWAA Freshman All-America honors. BYU's offensive line has continued to excel with Empey as its anchor, earning the American Fork High School product a place this year for the third time on the Rimington Award Watch List (most outstanding center) to go along with his watch list recognition by the Outland Trophy in 2020 and 2021.
Last season, Empey served as a team captain helping the Cougars achieve an 11-1 record and No. 11 final ranking. He played a key role in BYU's successful offensive attack that ranked No. 4 in scoring (43.5), No. 7 in total offense (522.2) and No. 8 in passing offense (322.1). BYU's offensive line helped create many explosive plays as the Cougars ranked No. 1 for the most plays of 30 or more yards and No. 2 for the most plays of 10-plus yards. The line also earned Joe Moore Award semifinalist honors as a unit in 2020 while ranking No. 8 in the nation for the fewest sacks allowed (12 sacks in 12 games).
Empey enters 2021 as the fourth-team preseason All-American center selection by both Phil Steele and Athlon Sports. He has also been recognized for his off-the-field resume as a candidate for the prestigious 2021 AFCA Good Works Team.
BYU boasts two previous winners of the annual Outland Trophy. Former BYU offensive lineman Mo Elewonibi won the award in 1989 and former Cougar defensive lineman Jason Buck earned the trophy in 1986.
The Outland Trophy winner is chosen from three finalists who are a part of the annual FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the entire membership, selects a 26-man first team and eventually the three Outland finalists. Committee members, by individual ballot, select the winner. Only interior linemen on offense or defense are eligible for the award; ends are not eligible.
The recipient of the 2021 Outland Trophy will be announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards, live on ESPN in December. The official presentation to the winner will be made at the Outland Trophy Awards Dinner sponsored by Werner Enterprises and produced by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee in Omaha, Neb., on Jan. 12, 2022.
The Outland Trophy, celebrating 75 years since its founding, is the third-oldest major college football award. Created in 1946 when Dr. John Outland presented the FWAA with a financial contribution to initiate the award, the Outland Trophy has been given to the best interior lineman in college football ever since. Dr. Outland, an All-American at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1890s, eventually took up practice in Kansas City, Missouri. An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Outland believed linemen did not get the credit they deserved and wanted an award to recognize them.
Select the following link for more information and the complete 2021 Outland Trophy Watch List.
About the FWAA
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,300 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team.