MACOMB, Ill. - Western Illinois redshirt-freshman linebacker J.J. Raffelson (Lake Zurich/Lake Zurich) was named by The Sports Network to the initial Watch List for the second-annual Jerry Rice Award. The end of the year award goes to the nation's top freshman, and the Watch List was announced on Wednesday (Oct. 3).
In all, 16 players (six quarterbacks, three running backs, one wide receiver, one all-purpose player, four linebackers and one strong safety) were chosen - and five of those 16 are from the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The Rice Award, named for the legendary wide receiver, who played in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State, will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season. The list will grow to 20 finalists by then.
Heading into last week's bye week for the Leathernecks, Raffelson's 42 total tackles led all freshmen in the country. He enters this week second among all rookies (three behind), and tied for 22nd nationally averaging 10.5 stops per game.
Raffelson also has 1.5 tackles for a loss and two pass break-ups this year. He debuted against Butler making nine tackles, then followed that with 12 stops versus Indianapolis. He added eight tackles at Iowa State (seven solos), and again led Western making 13 tackles against Illinois State.
Raffelson and the Leathernecks (2-2 overall) travel to South Dakota this Saturday (Oct. 6) for a MVFC showdown. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. Fans can listen live by going to www.GoLeathernecks.com.