Two football players from Chattanooga won the Ohio Valley Conference's top awards Tuesday. Tennessee Tech wide receiver Tim Benford was named the offensive player of the year and Tennessee State linebacker Rico Council was the defensive player of the year.
Benford, a senior who played at Red Bank High School, led the OVC with 58 receptions for 826 yards despite facing double coverage on a regular basis. He also helped lead the No. 20 Golden Eagles to a share of the OVC title and the program's first trip to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
"It definitely means a lot," Benford said. "It's something special that I can put in the final chapter of my career playing football."
Benford ranks third all-time in the OVC in career receptions (210) and receiving yards (3,007). He'll get to add to those numbers Saturday when Tennessee Tech (7-3) hosts Central Arkansas (8-3) in a first-round game at Tucker Stadium.
"It's an honor to be in the playoffs, something we've never done here, and it's another chance to put Tennessee Tech on the map," he said.
A senior linebacker, Council was the preseason pick for top defensive player and played up to that standard during the Tigers' 5-6 season. The former Howard standout was ninth in the OVC with 87 tackles. He also had 3.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss.
"It was kind of a surprise because there's a lot of good players in the conference," Council said. "I could have done a little bit better, but I had a pretty productive season."
Council finished his career with 295 tackles, second all-time at TSU.
Another former Red Bank player, Eastern Kentucky's Jeremy Caldwell, joined Benford and Council on the All-OVC first team as a return specialist and made the second team as a defensive back.
Caldwell and the Colonels (7-4) earned an at-large bid into the playoffs and host James Madison (7-4) in the first round.
Tennessee State redshirt freshman defensive back Steven Godbolt from McMinn Central made the OVC all-newcomer team.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...