The Jim Thorpe Award for the best defensive back in college football was created in 1986. It was conceived by former Oklahoma City talk show host Ed Sossen and W. Lynne Draper, the Jim Thorpe Association Executive Director, as a way to do something positive to promote Oklahoma. The award was immediately accepted as one of the nation’s top collegiate sports honors. Winners are judged on their performance on the field, athletic ability and character.
A pre-season “watch list” is determined by an analysis of All-American teams listed in various pre-season college football publications. A “Screening Committee” of Jim Thorpe Association members follows and researches the performance of these and other players and then meets on the first Monday in November to narrow the field to 10 or 12 semi-finalists. This committee will meet again on the Monday before Thanksgiving to select the three finalists. The names of these finalists are submitted to a national panel of over 50 sports writers, sportscasters, former players and coaches who vote to determine the winner. The finalists are invited to ESPN’s College Football Awards Show, broadcast in December from Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The winner is announced during the broadcast, but the official presentation of the award takes place in February, at a formal banquet in Oklahoma City.