Opposing quarterbacks quickly learned to fear this sight in 2011. It happened seven times, after all, and often at game-changing moments.
#24 Nigel Malone
Position: Defensive Back
Previous College: City College of San Francisco
Status: On Scholarship
Nigel Malone (b. Sept. 26, 1990) demonstrated last year the value of being present for spring camp when other primary contenders for a position are not yet. He took that head start and ran with it, all the way to star status.
Now the full-time starter at cornerback in 2011 heads into this season as an established star in the secondary, and currently resides on both the Bednarik and Nagurski award watch lists along with Arthur Brown.
He's also a candidate for the Walter Camp and Jim Thorpe awards, as well as a preseason All-American and All-Big 12 player, a preseason All-Big 12 selection by Athlon and Phil Steele, and Lindy's fourth-best defensive back.
Malone recorded 25 tackles, three interceptions, nine pass breakups and one forced fumble in 2010 for City College of San Francisco. The team was 22-2 during his two active seasons there. (He grayshirted in 2008.)
But that season was nothing compared to what he did in his K-State debut. From the very start, it was clear that Malone would be an interception machine. His two picks in the end zone were key to surviving Eastern Kentucky.
All he did after that was tie for third nationally with seven interceptions, all of them coming at key times in crucial games. That mark ranks second in school history and fifth in conference history. Plus he defended 16 passes.
Malone was one of only two players in the nation to record a multi-interception game, which he did against both EKU and Oklahoma. And he was no slouch otherwise, amassing 58 tackles, good for fifth place on the team.
Malone was a semifinalist for the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award and a second-team Walter Camp All-American, to go along with first-team All-Big 12 honors from the league’s coaches, ESPN.com and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
He probably won't match his gaudy interception numbers from last season, especially now that he is missing most of the summer with a meniscus injury. But I still can't wait to see what he does for an encore this season.