What is the John Mackey Award?

What is the John Mackey Award? Taking a closer look at one of college football's most prestigious awards and why it is a predictor of future success

College Football season sneaks up on us every year and the donning of the preseason award watchlist indicates fall, unlike no other tradition. One of the awards proven to be one of the most reliable predictors of future success is the John Mackey Award. What is the John Mackey Award, and why has this award hit the bullseye many times? 

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What is the John Mackey Award?

The John Mackey Award recognizes the top tight end in the country. The Nassau County Sports Commission established the Mackey Award in 2000. It was created to honor not only the best tight end on the football field but also the one who exemplifies the sportsmanship, academics, and community values of John Mackey.

Mackey played running back, wide receiver and most notably, tight end Syracuse. He had to share the limelight during his time at Syracuse, as he was playing with Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis.

Mackey became a five-time Pro Bowl tight end and an NFL Hall-of-Famer. He was recognized as one of the Top 100 players in NFL history by NFL Network.

Who is given the John Mackey Award?

The Mackey Award is given to the top tight end in college football, but that carries with it some specific criteria:

  • The TE should play in-line as a ‘true’ TE in the way that Mackey played, with blocking responsibilities
  • The recipient must have the capability to play at the NFL level
  • Mackey Award qualities include good sportsmanship, academic standing, and leadership on and off the football field
  • Wide receivers, slot receivers, halfbacks, or split receivers are not normally considered; however, the Mackey Award selection committee may nominate any player who, in their estimation, is worthy of consideration
  • The Mackey Award committee nominates candidates for consideration and determines the winner by committee voting
  • The John Mackey TE of the Week is awarded purely based on on-field performance but has no formal significance on the process for the yearly John Mackey Award

The Mackey Award nomination committee whittles the candidates down to eight semi-finalists before narrowing it to a top three finalists. The committee members must then list their top three, and using a weighted scoring system, the committee counts the votes and tabulate to determine the winner of the Mackey Award.

The Mackey Award nomination committee is a list of college football’s who’s who that includes ESPN Lee Corso and past John Mackey Award winners Daniel Graham and Dallas Clark.

Here are the previous winners of the John Mackey Award:

  • 2022: Brock Bowers- Georgia Bulldogs
  • 2021: Trey McBride- Colorado State Rams
  • 2020: Kyle Pitts- Florida Gators
  • 2019: Harrison Bryant- Florida Atlantic Owls
  • 2018: T.J. Hockenson- Iowa Hawkeyes
  • 2017: Mark Andrews- Oklahoma Sooners
  • 2016: Jake Butt- Michigan Wolverines
  • 2015: Hunter Henry- Arkansas Razorbacks
  • 2014: Nick O’Leary- Florida State Seminoles
  • 2013: Austin Seferian-Jenkins- Washington Huskies
  • 2012: Tyler Eifert- Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • 2011: Dwayne Allen- Clemson Tigers
  • 2010: D.J. Williams- Arkansas Razorbacks
  • 2009: Aaron Hernandez- Florida Gators
  • 2008: Chase Coffman- Missouri Tigers
  • 2007: Fred Davis- USC Trojans
  • 2006: Matt Spaeth- Minnesota Golden Gophers
  • 2005: Mercedes Lewis- UCLA Bruins
  • 2004: Heath Miller- Virginia Cavaliers
  • 2003: Kellen Winslow II- Miami (FL) Hurricanes
  • 2002: Dallas Clark- Iowa Hawkeyes
  • 2001: Daniel Graham- Colorado Buffaloes
  • 2000: Tim Stratton- Purdue Boilermakers

Very few awards can point to the sustainable success of the John Mackey Award. Some of these award winners would become some of the best tight ends in the NFL.

When is the John Mackey Award given out?

The winner of the John Mackey Award is announced annually during The Home Depot College Football Awards, which take place in early December.