Arkansas closer is first reliever to earn NCBWA
WINS 34TH DICK HOWSER TROPHY
DALLAS (NCBWA) There is a saying with 2021
Arkansas Razorbacks baseball in the late innings: "Call the Kopps."
Yes, that is 2021 Dick Howser Trophy presented by The
Game Headwear recipient Kevin Kopps, the
Arkansas relief ace just completed arguably the most impressive
season performance by a reliever in college baseball history. Kopps
becomes the first primarily relief hurler in the history of the
"Kevin Kopps had a simply amazing season," said David Feaster,
chair of the Dick Howser Trophy Committee presented by The Game
Headwear. "To accomplish what he did as a pitcher after the COVID-19
pandemic and Tommy John surgery is extremely admirable. He literally
placed the Arkansas team on his back and made the Razorbacks the
No. 1 squad nationally for most of the 2021 season."
The 6-foot, 200-pound senior from Sugar Land, Texas (George Ranch
High School) put together a magical campaign with statistics previously
unheard of for a closer in college baseball. He becomes the second
Razorback to receive the Dick Howser Trophy joining former Boston
Red Sox and current Kansas City Royals standout Andrew Benintendi
in 2015. Both Arkansas stalwarts played for heralded head coach
Dave Van Horn.
Kopps also has become the first student-athlete to win the Dick
Howser Trophy presented by The Game Headwear and the coveted 16th
2021 NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award for his mound exploits.
Kopps, the 2021 Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year and
Collegiate Baseball magazine National Player of the Year, had a
hand in 23 of the Razorbacks 50 victories in '21 with a 12-1 record
and 11 saves.
He allowed just nine earned runs in 89-2/3 innings, appeared
in 33 contests (32 in relief), struck out 131 hitters (13.1 per
nine innings), walked only 18 batters, allowed 50 hits (just five
hits every nine frames), had an 0.90 earned run average to lead
NCAA Division I, allowed opponents a .162 batting average, and paced
the Razorbacks to a No. 1 national ranking throughout the regular
season and the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Baseball Championship.
The 2021 award marks the 23rd consecutive year (1998) for the
NCBWA to administer national voting with the Dick Howser Trophy
Committee. He is a 2021 consensus All-America choice and the eighth
all-time winner from the Southeastern Conference and the first since
Brady Singer of Florida in 2018. The 2020 Dick Howser Trophy was
not presented due to the cancellation of the baseball season in
March '20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kopps developed some new pitches in the offseason from 2020 to
'21 and went from a sparingly-used middle innings relief man to
a national standout. After having Tommy John surgery prior to the
2018 campaign at UA, the righthander bounced back in 2019 with a
6-3 mark in 30 appearances in relief roles.
He graduated in May 2020 with his bachelor's degree in biomedical
engineering and is currently pursing his master's degree in business
Kopps edged out a sterling group of 2021 Howser Trophy finalists,
including Vanderbilt pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, Florida
State catcher Matheu Nelson and Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung
after a series of national ballots by the NCBWA.
A Florida native, Dick Howser was twice an All-America shortstop
at Florida State University (1957-58), then head coach of the Seminoles
in 1979 after a career as a Major League player and coach. After
one year in the college ranks, he returned to the majors to manage
the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals and won the World Series
with the Royals in 1985. The baseball stadium on the FSU campus
is named for Howser.
The Dick Howser Trophy honors the most outstanding collegiate
player each year, but it also is based upon the tenets of leadership,
moral character and courage. The top draft choices for the upcoming
Major League Baseball free agent draft usually are among the Howser
Trophy finalists, but this is not a criterion for the eventual winner.
The NCBWA national membership includes writers, broadcasters
and publicists. Designed to promote and publicize college baseball,
it is the sport's only college media-related organization, founded
The Howser Trophy presented by The Game Headwear was created
in 1987 shortly after Howser's death. Previous winners of the Howser
Trophy are Mike Fiore, Miami, Fla., 1987; Robin Ventura, Oklahoma
State, 1988; Scott Bryant, Texas, 1989; Alex Fernandez, Miami-Dade
Community College South, 1990; Frank Rodriguez, Howard College (Texas),
1991; Brooks Kieschnick, Texas, 1992 and 1993; Jason Varitek, Georgia
Tech, 1994; Todd Helton, Tennessee, 1995; Kris Benson, Clemson,
1996; J. D. Drew, Florida State, 1997; Eddy Furniss, LSU, 1998;
Jason Jennings, Baylor, 1999; Mark Teixeira, Georgia Tech, 2000;
Mark Prior, P, USC, 2001; Khalil Greene, SS, Clemson, 2002; Rickie
Weeks, 2B, Southern U., 2003; Jered Weaver, P, Long Beach State,
2004; Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska, 2005; Brad Lincoln, P/DH, Houston,
2006; David Price, P, Vanderbilt, 2007; Buster Posey, C, Florida
State, 2008; Stephen Strasburg, P, San Diego State, 2009; Anthony
Rendon, 3B, Rice, 2010; Taylor Jungmann, P, Texas, 2011; Mike Zunino,
C, Florida, 2012; Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego, 2013; A.J. Reed, Kentucky,
2014; Andrew Benintendi, Arkansas, 2015; Seth Beer, Clemson, 2016;
and Brendan McKay, Louisville, 2017; Brady Singer, Florida, 2018;
Adley Rutschman, 2019.