I coined this award ten years ago in honor of inaugural winner, Russell Gaskamp.
Gaskamp was a highly recruited OL prospect from Oklahoma that came to Texas with great acclaim and then gathered dust like a Salt Lake City Planned Parenthood. In 1998 - then a fifth year senior - he was a struck by a meteorite doused in Gamma rays, won the starting center job, played well, and helped Ricky win the Heisman.
Thereafter the award goes annually to the senior that no one expects a damn thing from who has spent much of their career marginalized, ignored, downtrodden, or injured. They're often also goats or players that spark some degree of derision from the fanbase until their breakout year - when thereafter they are remembered fondly, even wistfully: "I always knew he'd be a player!"
We've had one every year, more or less, but the most memorable past winners include:
2001 Maurice Gordon
Maurice came to Texas as a 210 pound fullback, hung out at Daquiri Factory for three years, showed a hint of promise as an undersized pass rushing DE in 2000, and then grabbed the starting DT gig in 2001. At 6-1, 255. Back when the Big 12 ran the ball, mind you. The 5th year senior went on to rack up 16 TFL and 7.5 sacks and was a key component in a good Texas defense.
2007 Nate Jones
Nate proved that a little-used college 5th year senior WR who runs a 4.8 40 is a great bet to lead his team in catches (70), yards receiving (795), and receiving TDs (5). OMG!!! There's still hope, Montre!!!!
2008 Henry Melton
The '06 Aggie goat and failed short yardage back didn't know how to line up in his stance when he was switched to DE in 2007. He played sparingly and Longhorn fans shook their heads and offered pained expressions when his name was mentioned along with the likes of OJ McClintock and Mitt Romney. We chuckled when he left spring drills leading on the depth chart at DE - surely Muschamp was engaging in some cruel motivational tactic, akin to Close To Jumping throwing rocks at stragglers during his daughter's childhood soccer tournaments. Knowing laughter turned to slight panic in late August when we realized that this was really happening. The joke was on us. Melton ranked 3rd on the team in QB Hits, played the run well, and racked up 4 sacks on a front that led the nation in that category. We knew it all along, Henry. Ha ha ha! Friends, right?
In assessing the 2009 nominees, the pickings are slim.
I may allow Deon Beasley or Charlie Tanner if one of them plays at an All-Big 12 level despite having started last year. A journey must be measured by the distance traveled.
If not a Gaskamp Award eligible senior, who will be our most unlikely big contributor? Bring me your wildest musings....