It’s possible that even if Jordan Addison hadn’t left Pitt for USC, Calijah Kancey still might’ve been the highest-drafted Pitt player in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Kancey, coming off freshman All-American and All-American honors as a freshman and sophomore, respectively, is one of the best defensive linemen in college football, and as such, he’s in the running for one of college football’s premier defensive awards.
Kancey is one of 42 college players named to the 2022 Lott Impact Trophy watchlist — the only major college football award that considers character.
“Named after former NFL Hall of Fame star Ronnie Lott, The Lott Trophy annually goes to the Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year, a player who has had the biggest impact on his team both on and off the field,” The Lott Trophy release says. “IMPACT stands for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity, all characteristics exhibited by Lott during his illustrious playing career.”
As a sophomore in 2021, earning first-team All-ACC and third-team All-American honors, Kancey racked up 35 tackles (25 solo), 13 tackles for loss, seven sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defense as the anchor of Pitt’s stellar defensive line.
In just two seasons, he’s compiled 62 tackles (37 solo), 20 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, three passes defended and a forced fumble.
The Miami native is a vocal leader on Pitt’s defense, anchoring one of the best defensive lines in college football, and the Lott Trophy is the first of what will be many national awards that Kancey is nominated for ahead of the 2022 season.
Alabama has three players on the watchlist, and Georgia, Notre Dame, Iowa, Ohio State and Clemson have two players on the list.
Wake Forest’s Nick Anderson, Clemson’s Bryan Breese, North Carolina’s Tony Grimes, Duke’s Shaka Heyward, Virginia’s Nick Jackson, Miami’s Akheem Mesidor and Clemson’s Trenton Simpson have all been named to the watchlist from the ACC.
A national panel, consisting of past winners, media members, coaches and former IMPACT Foundation Board of Directors will select the eventual winner, and the winner will be announced at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, California on Dec. 11.