Tonight’s ESPY Awards will showcase a pair of athletes who went from niche names in the Ohio State sports world to big names in the real world.
Zeke could topple NFL royalty
Ezekiel Elliott, on whose back the Buckeyes once rode to a national title, has been nominated in the “Best NFL Player” category, where he’ll face steep competition. The award’s other nominees include both quarterbacks from this year’s Super Bowl (that’s Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, in case you somehow missed it), Oakland Raiders LB Khalil Mack, and perennial playoff hero Aaron Rodgers. That Zeke was nominated in this prestigious category after just one season of pro ball will likely have to be prize enough: odds are long for him to knock off Brady, the reigning Super Bowl MVP; or Rodgers, the league’s human highlight reel.
In his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott racked up 1,631 yards on 322 carries, finding the end zone 15 times. Those numbers were good enough to make him the league leader in rushing yards and place third in rushing TDs.
Snyder looks for another gold
The best college wrestler in America showed that he was also the best wrestler in his weight class in the world last summer. Kyle Snyder, whose exploits on the mat have been spoiling Buckeye fans for years, became the youngest American to win Olympic wrestling gold during the Rio games in 2016. He’s nominated in the “Best U.S. Olympic Athlete (Male)” category.
Snyder pulled off the near-impossible last year, winning the World championship, the NCAA championship, and the Olympic gold in a span of just a few months. The opponents he beat in the Olympic and World title matches had a combined 20 years more experience than Snyder, to put the feat in context.
Like Elliott, Snyder is a long shot to win the ESPY tonight. His competition includes Michael Phelps and Ashton Eaton, one a household name and the other fast becoming one. It’s not as though Phelps and Eaton were nominated on name value alone, though. Phelps was the most decorated athlete of the Rio games, his fourth consecutive Olympics doing so. He won eight gold medals and a silver medal for the U.S. swim team. Eaton, meanwhile, is coming off back-to-back golds in the Olympic decathlon.
‘The Catch’ didn’t quite make it
Early-on in voting, Noah Brown’s behind the back catch against Oklahoma was in the running to win “Best Play”. He was up against an impressive catch by the NFL’s Julian Edelman in the tournament-style voting, and fell short of the final four.
But, you can watch it again here:
You can tune in to the awards tonight at 8 pm ET on ABC or WatchESPN.