By: Paul Letlow/ULM Athletics
MONROE, La. – ULM senior cornerback Corey Straughter, who ranked among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision leaders in interceptions (tied for seventh with 5) and passes defended (tied for 14th with 15) last season, has been named to the preseason watch list for the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award, presented annually since 1986 to the nation’s best defensive back by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
Last week, Straughter was listed among the top preseason candidates for the Bednarik Award, presented to college football’s defensive player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club.
In 2019, Straughter was named All-American by both USA TODAY (second team) and Pro Football Focus (third team) as well as First-Team All-Sun Belt Conference. His 15 passes defended led the Sun Belt and his five interceptions tied for the league lead. Straughter allowed the nation’s lowest passer rating (13.5), lowest completion percentage (28.6) and fewest combined receptions for first downs and touchdowns (7). His 89.9 coverage grade ranked sixth-highest among all NCAA FBS cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. He allowed only one touchdown reception in 2019 (came in the season finale at the Ragin’ Cajuns) and one explosive pass play (20-plus yards; came on the opening drive of Game 11 vs. Coastal Carolina).
The Monroe, Louisiana, native also contributed 23 tackles (18 solos, 5 assists).
The 5-foot-10, 183-pound Straughter registered three tackles and a pass break-up in the home finale against Coastal Carolina.
He was selected to the PFF Sun Belt Conference Defensive Team of the Week three times last season: against South Alabama, at Texas State and against Georgia State.
Straughter intercepted Arkansas State’s Layne Hatcher’s third-down pass attempt at the Warhawk 36 and returned it 22 yards to set up ULM’s game-tying touchdown (34-34) late in the third quarter. He also contributed three tackles and a pass break-up against the Red Wolves.
Early last season, Straughter recorded an interception in three consecutive games (back-to-back road games at Florida State and Iowa State and the Sun Belt opener against South Alabama).
His interception and 25-yard return to the Texas State 2-yard line in the final 90 seconds iced ULM’s 24-14 win over the Bobcats. Straughter also recorded a career-high four pass break-ups and a solo tackle at Texas State.
He limited Memphis’ leading receiver Damonte Coxie (entered the game with 18 catches for 278 yards and TD) to just two receptions for 18 yards.
With the score tied at 7-7 early in the second quarter of ULM’s Sun Belt Conference opener against South Alabama, Straughter ended an 11-play, 62-yard drive to the Warhawk 13 by intercepting Cephus Johnson’s third-and-goal pass attempt into the end zone. He added two tackles against the Jaguars.
He matched his season high with four tackles (all solo hits) to go along with an interception at Iowa State.
With ULM trailing Florida State 24-7 midway through the third quarter, the complexion of the game changed when Straughter intercepted James Blackman’s first-down pass attempt along the sideline and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown. It marked his second career interception return for a score. Straughter also tallied four stops against the Seminoles.
His career totals include nine career interceptions and 19 career pass break-ups. Straughter already ranks among ULM’s all-time Top 20 in interception return yards (second at 250), pass break-ups (ninth) and interceptions (tied for 15th).
The award is named in honor of Jim Thorpe, who was born May 28, 1888, on a Sac and Fox Indian Reservation at Prague, Okla. He played halfback for the Carlisle (Pa.) Indian Industrial School from 1907-08 and again from 1911-12. In 44 career games, he scored 53 touchdowns and 421 points. In 1912, Thorpe led the nation in TDs (29) and points scored (224). Besides his accomplishments in football, he was a one-man track team and excelled in basketball, lacrosse, baseball and all other sports he attempted. At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon. He played pro football from 1915-28 and Major League Baseball from 1913-19. In 1950, Thorpe was named the greatest athlete of the half-century from 1900-49 by The Associated Press sports editors. He was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.