One of the top tacklers in UCF history, senior free safety Kemal Ishmael received a spot on the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List Friday, which is handed out to the best defensive back in college football. The Miami native was one of only 35 student-athletes in the entire country named to the list.

Ishmael is the second Knight in the last two seasons to earn a spot on the Thorpe Award Watch List, as cornerback Josh Robinson represented the Black and Gold last year. Robinson went on to be selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

The Thorpe Award is named after the great Jim Thorpe, who excelled at every sport in which he competed, including football at which he played on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The 2012 Olympics mark the 100-year anniversary of Thorpe winning gold in the decathlon and pentathlon at the Stockholm Olympics. The award will be presented by the Jim Thorpe Association in Oklahoma City, and the winner is selected from three finalists and will be announced at The Home Depot College Football Awards Dec. 6 on ESPN. The Thorpe Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association.

One of four players (two safeties and two cornerbacks) from Conference USA on this year’s preseason watch list, Ishmael has racked up 244 tackles dating back to his true freshman season in 2009. He enters 2012 looking for just 35 more tackles to tie Cory Hogue for 10th on the UCF all-time list (Hogue amassed 279 tackles from 2006-09, while Rick Hamilton holds the record with 443 from 1989-92).

In 2011, Ishmael paced the Knights in tackles for the second-straight year, racking up 81 including 2.5 for a loss. As a sophomore, he notched 93 tackles with five break-ups and two interceptions. Ishmael has nine-career break-ups and three picks while playing in all 39 UCF games from 2009-11. He leads all returning players by owning a current streak of 35-straight starts, as he came off the bench for the first four games as a freshman before serving as the starting free safety ever since.

After being on the 2010 All-C-USA First Team, Ishmael was a 2011 All-C-USA Honorable Mention pick and a 2011 Phil Steele Midseason All-C-USA First Team selection. He is one of seven Knights who have received spots on national preseason watch lists in 2012.

UCF on Preseason Watch Lists

  • Sr. S Kemal Ishmael – Jim Thorpe Award (Top Defensive Back)
  • Sr. OL Theo Goins – Outland Trophy (Top Interior Lineman)
  • Sr. C Jordan Rae – Rimington Trophy (Top Center)
  • Sr. WR Quincy McDuffie – CFPA All-Purpose Trophy
  • Sr. RB Latavius Murray – CFPA All-Purpose Trophy
  • So. WR Rannell Hall – CFPA Kickoff Returner Trophy
  • Sr. LB Jonathan Davis – CFPA Linebacker Trophy