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December 10, 2008UConn head coach Randy Edsall has always maintained that team success will lead to individual honors at the end of the season.
It was the other way around this year when running back Donald Brown was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, marking the first time since joining the conference in 2004 that UConn has had a player win one of the conference's highest honors.
"It is a great honor to be recognized by the coaches in the Big East with this award," Brown said in a statement issued by the university. "It really means a lot to me. I think awards like this also help our program out considerably. The more attention and recognition that the school can get will show that the program continues to build and go in the right direction."
The award, chosen by the league's eight head coaches, marks the first time a running back has been selected Offensive Player of the Year since Willis McGahee was given the honor in 2002. Brown finished the regular season with a school-record 1,822 yards, the most in all of Division I this season, and 17 touchdowns.
Brown, named to the Rivals.com All-America Second Team earlier in the day, was a unanimous choice for the all-Big East First Team. Joining Brown on the first team are left tackle Will Beatty, defensive end Cody Brown and cornerback Darius Butler. Linebacker Scott Lutrus and safety Robert Vaughn were named to the all-Big East Second Team.
"We are very proud of Donald and all of our players that have earned All-Big East honors," Edsall said in the statement. "Donald is clearly one of the top players in the country and, in my opinion, the best tailback. The fact that he is our first major Big East award winner is another milestone in our program's development."
Pittsburgh linebacker Scott McKillop was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year, Cincinnati wide receiver Mardy Gilyard earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors and Louisville running back Victor Anderson was named Rookie of the Year. Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly repeated as the conference's Coach of the Year after leading the Bearcats to the conference title and an Orange Bowl appearance.
Brown, who told the Hartford Courant after UConn's 34-10 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday that he will return for his senior season, will be back in action on January 3 when the Huskies take on MAC champion Buffalo in the International Bowl in Toronto, Ontario (noon, ESPN2).