Joseph Wins 2008 Cellular South Conerly Trophy

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Millsaps quarterback Juan Joseph won the 2008 Cellular South Conerly Trophy on Tuesday night, becoming the first Division III player to be named Mississippi's top college football player.

He beat out a pair of future NFL players - defensive tackle Peria Jerry and offensive tackle Michael Oher, both of Ole Miss -at a ceremony in Clarksdale.

The Edgard, La., native is the first quarterback to win the award since Ole Miss' Eli Manning won it in 2003.

"This feels great," Joseph said after the announcement. "I'm just happy. I can't even put it into words."

Joseph led the Majors to 11 straight wins, a No. 3 ranking and Division III's top playoff seed before Saturday's upset 35-20 loss to No. 19 Washington & Jefferson in the national quarterfinals.

The three-time Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference offensive player of the year finished with 3,463 yards and 32 touchdowns passing. He also had 412 yards and four touchdowns rushing.

Joseph said he was as successful as he was because of the efforts of his team. "We went 11-1," he said. "This program's come a long way."

Oher and Jerry are projected to go early on the first day of the NFL draft in April. Some believe Oher, the first offensive lineman nominated for the award, could go as high as No. 1 after a distinguished career and 46 straight starts against some of the Southeastern Conference's best defenders. He is an Outland Trophy finalist and a candidate for other national awards.

Jerry, the reigning Southeastern Conference defensive player of the week, leads the SEC in tackles for loss (17) and is fifth in sacks (six). He's also may have played himself into the first round of the NFL draft after a sensational senior season.

The selection of Oher and Jerry as finalists is the fifth time in the award's 13 years that teammates were nominated. Only once has either won the award, however.

The Conerly Trophy is named for former Ole Miss and All-Pro NFL quarterback Charlie Conerly. A panel of voters from print, television and radio outlets selects the nominees and winner.

The 2007 winner, Southern Miss tailback Damion Fletcher, was not nominated this year.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)