NEW ORLEANS, La. – January has been an exciting month for LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The first week of the New Year had the junior being named the Sugar Bowl MVP following LSU's 41-14 win over Notre Dame.
A week later, Russell announced that he was going to bypass his senior season with the Tigers to make himself eligible for the NFL Draft in April. Many think that Russell could be the first player picked in the draft after his performance against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
Now, three weeks into the New Year, Russell is getting more headlines as he's been named the recipient of the Manning Award, the Sugar Bowl Committee along with the Manning Family announced on Tuesday. Russell learned of the news on Tuesday morning when Archie Manning called him with the news.
"He (Archie Manning) called to congratulate me," Russell said. "He told me good luck in the future and wished me the best."
"This is a tremendous honor. To win an award named after the Manning family, a family full of great quarterbacks, is wonderful. And, to be mentioned alongside some of the past winners of the award is also an honor. This is very special, but I couldn't have done this without my teammates."
The Manning Award, given to the nation's best quarterback, is the only quarterback award that takes into consideration the candidate's bowl performance. This year's finalists were: Russell, Erik Ainge (Tennessee), John David Booty (USC), Colt Brennan (Hawaii), Brian Brohm (Louisville), Chad Henne (Michigan), Chris Leak (Florida), Nate Longshore (California), Brady Quinn (Notre Dame), Troy Smith (Ohio State) and Patrick White (West Virginia).
Russell capped his career with the Tigers by connecting on 21 of 34 passes for a career-best 332 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Russell also ran for a touchdown as the Tigers racked up 577 yards of offense in their dismantling of the 11th-ranked Irish.
"Once again we are pleased with the winner of the Manning Award," said Sugar Bowl Chief Executive Officer Paul Hoolahan. "JaMarcus Russell had a great season that fittingly was punctuated with an outstanding effort in the Allstate Sugar Bowl."
Russell finished his career ranked No. 2 in school history in passing touchdowns with 52 and completion percentage of 61.9%. He also ranks No. 3 in LSU history in completions (493), passing yards (6,625) and total offense (6,704) and he's fourth in attempts (797).
"We're very excited to have JaMarcus as this year's winner," said Archie Manning. "He has had a spectacular season and career at LSU, and capped it off with an explosive finish. We're proud that he will represent this award."
In addition to the Manning Award, Russell was also voted the Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP, First-Team All-SEC (AP, SEC Coaches), and was named LSU's Charles McClendon Most Valuable Player for the 2006 season. He was also the SEC Offensive Player of the Week three times.
LSU has now had a national award winner in football for three straight years. Ben Wilkerson won the Rimington Trophy following the 2004 season as the nation's top center, while a year ago center Rudy Niswanger claimed both the Draddy Award, also known as the Academic Heisman, and the Wuerffel Trophy.
The Manning Award was created in 2005 to honor the college football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton, and Eli Manning and is presented annually following the holiday bowl season. The winner is selected by a panel of national media covering college football, as well as each of the Manning's. Last year's winner was University of Texas quarterback Vince Young, and the inaugural winner was USC quarterback Matt Leinart.
An official presentation ceremony in Russell's honor will be held in the coming weeks.