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By MATTHEW STEVENS
Derek Sherrod and Chris White have ended their college careers being recognized as one of the best players in the league at their positions.
The pair of Mississippi State senior captains were named to the Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference First Team Monday afternoon and were the only MSU players selected to the leagueâ€™s first or second team honors.
Sherrod is in New York City, along with State head coach Dan Mullen and athletic director Scott Stricklin, as the senior offensive lineman is being honored as part of the 2010 National Scholar-Athlete Class. Sherrod is one of 16 players among all divisions of the NCAA and NAIA up for the William V. Campbell Trophy. The Columbus native, who carries a 3.54 GPA as a business major, will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and, if picked as the winner Tuesday, would also garner a $25,000 scholarship.
"I could've gone pretty much anywhere in the country, but I knew that this was basically my home," Sherrod said. "I couldn't see myself being anywhere else."
The 6-foot-6, 305-pound left tackle was a four-time SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week this season and is a first-round NFL Draft pick projection by numerous media outlets after 34 consecutive starts at his position.
â€śDerek is the best offensive tackle Iâ€™ve ever been associated with in my coaching career,â€ť Mullen said. â€śHeâ€™s such a consistent performer every day thatâ€™s put the time and effort into being a great player at his position.â€ť
White, from Vancleave, Miss., has totaled a team-high 105 tackles this season, which ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference. The senior also ranked fourth in the conference in tackles for loss with 15.5 while ranking eighth in sacks with 6.0.
White had five double-digit tackle games this season including four straight against Houston, Florida, UAB and Kentucky. He became the first Mississippi State player to record four consecutive double-digit tackle games since Dominic Douglas did so in 2008.
â€śMississippi State has a tradition of playing great defense and Iâ€™m proud to be a part of that,â€ť White said. â€śEven if Iâ€™d had other offers, I remember wanting to be a player in this schoolâ€™s tradition.â€ť
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound linebacker also became the fourth Mississippi State player since the awardâ€™s inception in 1996 to win the Conerly Trophy, given to theÂ best college football player in the state of Mississippi, and the second straight MSU winner following Anthony Dixon who was honored with the award last season. The other two Mississippi State players to take home the honor were J.J. Johnson in 1998 and Jerious Norwood in 2005.
â€śHe wasnâ€™t on everybodyâ€™s watch list, was learning a new position in his second season in the program,â€ť Mullen said. â€śHe has to be the MVP of the defense this season and has dominated on that side of the ball.â€ť
The only other State player mentioned in the voting done by sportswriters throughout the southeast region was junior tailback Vick Ballard being an honorable mention. The transfer from Gulf Coast Community College broke the schoolâ€™s overall touchdown record with 17 and tied the school rushing touchdown record with 16 in the 31-23 victory in the Egg Bowl at Oxford.