COLUMBIA, SC -- University of South Carolina defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum has been nominated for the 2019 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award, it was announced today. Wonnum and the other inspiring student-athletes from all levels of college football have overcome injury, illness or other challenges. They are recognized by a panel of writers, editors and sports information directors from CoSIDA, AP and Touchdown Illustrated.
Wonnum was coming off an outstanding sophomore campaign in 2017 in which he led the Gamecocks with 13 tackles for loss (TFLs) and six sacks, and as a result the Stone Mountain, Ga., native was named a permanent team captain. But an ankle injury in the opening week of the 2018 limited him to just five games that season. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive lineman opened 2019 with seven tackles, including three TFLs versus UNC. Then, in the fourth game of the season, he tallied three sacks and a forced fumble versus Kentucky, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors, the fourth time in his career he's been recognized by the league office. For the year, he has 25 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 TFLs, an interception and a blocked kick. D.J.'s younger brother Dylan earned SEC All-Freshman honors last year and this season is South Carolina's starting right tackle. Off the field, D.J. was recognized as the Dr. Harris Pastides Outstanding Student-Athlete during the spring of 2019.
At the end of the season, three of the nominees will be chosen as Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award winners and will be recognized at a special ceremony during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Additionally, $30,000 will be donated in the names of the nine student-athletes selected as finalists to their school's general scholarship fund, with $15,000 being awarded in the names of the three winners and $15,000 on behalf of the six named honorable mention.
"We understand how challenging it can be for student-athletes to return from injury or illness," says Dr. Michael Stuart, co-director for Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine. "We are honored to be part of this award that recognizes qualities like motivation, determination and perseverance."