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Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard wins Jim Thorpe award for top defensive back

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During the season, the Michigan State backfield became known through the self-appointed title of the "No Fly Zone". On Thursday, that claim earned itself a hefty dose of validity.

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Throughout many of the Spartans match ups in 2013, announcers would talk about how dangerous it was for an opposing quarterback to throw the ball to one of their receivers down the line with the likes of MSU defensive back Darqueze Dennard back there to cover his man. More often than not, the ball would be batted away, the receiver would be unable to make the catch, or Dennard himself would make the interception.

It truly became a "No Fly Zone".

So when on Thursday night, Dennard was selected as the winner of the Jim Thorpe award for the nation's top defensive back, it didn't come as a surprise to very many, much less his coach in defensive coordinator, Pat Narduzzi.

"I'm awfully proud of the way Darqueze Dennard has played not only this season but throughout his entire career," Narduzzi said. "Without a doubt, Darqueze has turned out to be the best defensive back in the country. The best way to describe him is fast, physical and smart. Plus, he has the ability to make big, game-changing plays."

Dennard, the 5-foot-11, 197-pound phenom, was honored on ESPN's College Football Awards Show in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and was also named a Walter Camp All-American (his second All-American honor). He was also selected to the USA Today's first team.

The defensive superstar leads the Spartans in interceptions (four), pass breakups (10), passes defended (14), and is also fourth in tackles (59).

ESPN Stats & Info shows that opponents were 3-of-31 passing to receivers covered by Dennard on throws of over 15 yards - an incredible feat.

"The defense had a great year," Dennard said during the ESPN ceremony. "I couldn't have won this award without my teammates and the coaching staff."

You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.

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