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HOUSTON (AP) — Forget winning awards. Before this season, Penn State senior Carl Nassib had never even been a starter.
The defensive end was quite the winner Wednesday.
Nassib received the Rotary Lombardi Award on Wednesday night from the Rotary Club of Houston as the nation's top college lineman or linebacker.
"As of like five days ago, I never won anything other than like participation when I was swimming when I was eight," Nassib said. "I think I got sportsmanship when I was like six. This takes the cake. This is awesome."
Earlier in the day, Nassib was honored with the Ted Hendricks award for best defensive end.
"Awards never meant that much to me until I got them," Nassib said.
Not bad for a former walk-on that never started in high school or at Penn State until this year.
"Every day I wanted to be the best," Nassib said. "My mom will tell you that I called her and I didn't know if I wanted to play football anymore, and she told me I didn't have to. All I said was 'I just want to be the best.' It wasn't easy to come on as a walk-on, and a lot of people told me I couldn't do it. Even up to this year, a lot of people told me I couldn't do it."
Nassib joins a list of Lombardi Award winners that includes Manti Te'o (2012), Luke Kuechly (2011), Ndamukong Suh (2009), A.J. Hawk (2005), Terrell Suggs (2002), Julius Peppers (2001) and Warren Sapp (1994).
"It is such an honor to hold this trophy and take on the responsibility of being a Lombardi winner," Nassib said. "You have so many standards that he put in place so long ago. It's just an incredible feeling right now."
Nassib finished the season with 46 tackles, 15 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles to go with one interception. The Nittany Lions (7-5) take on Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2.
"Penn State has made me into the person I am today," said Nassib, who has been through five coaches, including interim coaches, at Penn State. "I've been surrounded and taught by so many people there. That university makes the best people. Anybody I ask who spends a week in Happy Valley understands why it's called Happy Valley."
Nassib beat out Texas A&M sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett, Ohio State junior defensive end Joey Bosa and Clemson junior defensive end Shaq Lawson.
Of the four finalists, Nassib said he didn't mind being overlooked.
"To be honest, I love being the darkhorse; I love being the underdog," Nassib said. "It drives me to be the best I can and prove people wrong, so I don't mind it at all."
Bosa was a finalist for the honor last season as well. Lawson and Nassib were beat out by Temple's Tyler Matakevich for the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the nation's top defensive player, on Monday in Charlotte.
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