OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – East Carolina sophomore Ja’Quan McMillian has been named one of 12 semifinalists for the 2021 Paycom Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in college football, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame announced Monday morning. Since joining the American Athletic Conference, McMillian is the second Pirate to be named a semifinalist following Josh Hawkins in 2014.
McMillian, who has started all seven games at cornerback, owns four of ECU’s nine interceptions and currently leads the nation in passes defended per game with 2.3 (12 pass breakups, four picks), while standing second in total interceptions and third in INTs per game (0.6).
The Winston-Salem, N.C. native has picked off passes against Appalachian State, Marshall, Charleston Southern and Tulane. His pick against the Thundering Herd came with six seconds left on the clock securing the Pirates’ 17-point come from behind win, 42-38.
McMillian, who has 11 career interceptions and 24 pass breakups, has tallied 41 tackles (28 solo) on the season with 4.0 TFLs. He has been a key member on East Carolina’s defensive unit that ranks 14th nationally in interceptions.
East Carolina (3-4, 1-2 American) will return to action Thursday, Oct. 28 when it plays host to USF (2-5, 1-2 American) inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (EDT) and will be nationally televised on ESPN.
Finalists will be announced on Nov. 23 with the winner being named Dec. 9 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Show, which will be aired on ESPN.
The Paycom Jim Thorpe Award is awarded to the best defensive back in college football based on performance on the field, athletic ability and character. The award was established in 1986 and is named after history’s greatest all-around athlete, Jim Thorpe. Thorpe excelled as a running back, passer and kicker on the offensive side of the ball, but also stood out as a defensive back. In addition to his legendary performance on the football field, Thorpe played professional baseball and won Olympic gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon. The Paycom Jim Thorpe Award is universally accepted as one of the nation’s top collegiate sports honors.