Pitt Roster Boasts Four Football National Award Semi-Finalists


PITTSBURGH—Pitt linebacker SirVocea Dennis has been named a semifinalist for the coveted Butkus Award, annually presented to the nation’s best linebacker by the Butkus Foundation.

Elected a Pitt team captain, Dennis (Syracuse, N.Y./Christian Brothers/Peddie School) has earned All-ACC honors each of the past two years and is now poised for national accolades.

Manning the middle linebacker position, Dennis is the Panthers’ most prolific tackler this season with 58 stops. He additionally leads Pitt in tackles for loss (8.5, tied) and quarterback sacks (five).

Among his standout performances this season was a 10-tackle effort in Pitt’s 38-31 win over historic rival West Virginia. Dennis had a season-high 11 tackles against Georgia Tech.

Dennis has been in on a TFL in every single game this year.

Finalists for the Butkus Award will be announced on November 21. The 2022 winner will be revealed on or before December 7.

This year’s Butkus Award recipient will be honored at a televised event on January 21, 2023, at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif., featuring the legendary namesake of the award, Dick Butkus.


Pitt senior defensive end Deslin Alexandre has been named one of 12 semifinalists for the Wuerffel Trophy, regarded as college football’s premier award for community service.

Named after Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel, the Wuerffel Trophy was created to “honor college football players who serve others, celebrate their positive impact on society and inspire greater service to the world.”

This is the second national recognition Alexandre has received for his dedication to helping others. He previously was named to the 2022 Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team.

Alexandre (Pompano Beach, Fla./Deerfield Beach) graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in communication and is now enrolled in Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. A two-time team captain of the Panthers, he has played in 54 career games, starting 31 contests.

When it comes to community service, Alexandre is a pacesetter for Pitt’s entire athletic department. His efforts include service to veterans, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, literacy promotion and voter registration.

Alexandre has become a fixture at Divine Mercy Parish, a Catholic church located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. He works specifically with “The Red Door” program, which the parish began during the Great Depression to provide relief for those in need. This includes providing meals and clothing as well as encouragement for the homeless.

Alexandre is now expanding his impact beyond America’s borders.

Inspired by his own heritage, he is working to help the children of Haiti. (The impoverished country is estimated to have 1.2 million orphans and vulnerable children.) He hopes to build awareness and mobilize resources for education, healthcare and nutrition in the nation where he was born.

Wuerffel Trophy finalists will be announced on November 29 and the winner will be unveiled on December 8.

The presentation of the 2022 Wuerffel Trophy will occur on February 24, 2023, at the 54th All Sports Association Awards Banquet in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.


Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda and defensive tackle Calijah Kancey have been named semifinalists for prestigious national honors presented by Philadelphia’s Maxwell Football Club.

Abanikanda, who leads the country in five different statistical categories, is a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, presented to the college player of the year. Kancey, rated one of college football’s elite pass rushers, is a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the college defensive player of the year.

The Panthers have two prior winners of the Maxwell: running back Tony Dorsett (1976) and defensive end Hugh Green (1980). Defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the 2013 Bednarik Award recipient.

Abanikanda (Brooklyn, N.Y./Abraham Lincoln) has established himself as one of the country’s most explosive offensive performers. He leads the country in all-purpose yards (177.88 per game), rushing touchdowns (16), total touchdowns (17), scoring per game (12.8) and total points (102).

Abanikanda has totaled 1,086 rushing yards to lead the ACC and rank third nationally.

Despite seeing increased attention from opponents’ blocking schemes, Kancey (Miami, Fla./Miami Northwestern) has continued to be one of the nation’s most dominant interior defenders. On the year he has compiled 22 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and seven quarterback hurries.

Kancey was recently named to no fewer than five Midseason All-America teams, including Athlon, CBS Sports, ESPN, The Athletic and Pro Football Focus.

Three finalists for the Bednarik and Maxwell awards will be announced on November 22. The respective winners will be revealed during ESPN’s live telecast of The Home Depot College Football Awards on December 8.


Pitt’s National Awards Semifinalists

RB Israel Abanikanda: Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year)

DE Deslin Alexandre: Wuerffel Trophy (Community Service)

LB SirVocea Dennis: Butkus Award (Nation’s Best Linebacker)

DT Calijah Kancey: Chuck Bednarik Award (College Defensive Player of the Year)

S Erick Hallett II: Paycom Jim Thorpe Award (Nation’s Best Defensive Back)

Story Credit: Pitt Athletics

Image: Vince Butts