Junior linebacker earns Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Curtis Lofton's first season
as a starting linebacker at Oklahoma has been the kind
of year dreams are made of, quite literally.
The junior middle linebacker has come up with one
game-changing play after another throughout Big 12
play to get the Sooners (10-2, 6-2) into Saturday's
conference championship game against top-ranked Missouri
His penchant for causing pivotal turnovers earned
him recognition from a panel of media as The Associated
Press' Big 12 defensive player of the year.
"The night before the game I just go home and in
my bed, I'm sitting there dreaming and going over all
the formations in my head and I envision myself picking
off the ball or making somebody fumble, just causing
the big play," Lofton said.
"During the week I study film, and I put myself
in a position to make big plays. So far, I've been
The Big 12 title game will bring Lofton and the
unanimous Big 12 offensive player of the year selection,
Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel, back together again.
When they first met, Lofton returned a botched handoff
from Daniel to Jeremy Maclin for a touchdown that helped
Oklahoma pull away for a 41-31 victory in mid-October.
He also had 18 tackles in the game, which came in the
midst of a remarkable run for the junior middle linebacker.
A week earlier, he forced a fumble as Texas' Jamaal
Charles was inside the 5 and headed for a go-ahead
touchdown. A week later, he tipped a late pass for
an interception to seal a victory at Iowa State. Then
he capped the regular season by causing a fumble to
finish off a goal-line stand against Oklahoma State.
"The guy has just been amazing at causing turnovers
and making plays. He's been the most productive linebacker
we've ever had," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.
That's heady praise at a school that has had two
Butkus Award winners in Stoops' nine seasons. After
Lofton's recognition, the Sooners have had five of
the last eight defensive players of the year in the
"We've had great tradition. Long, long before we
got here, it's a place that you always admired and
respected and were jealous of because you know you
can recruit the best that there is in the country," defensive
coordinator Brent Venables said. "That's what we've
been fortunate enough to do here. We've had a lot of
"But as much as anything, a couple of the common
traits that they have are the desire to be great, never
being satisfied and obviously being talented and blessed.
And Curtis obviously has those attributes."
Lofton is by far the Sooners' leading tackler with
132 stops, and he also has two interceptions, four
forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
"I kind of look at it like it's something I should
do," Lofton said. "It's not something that I shouldn't
put myself in a position to do. I put myself in a position
to make the play, so I've got to make the play to help
my team out."
Prolific Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree,
a freshman who leads the nation in receptions, is the
offensive newcomer of the year. The defensive newcomer
of the year is Kansas freshman defensive back Chris
Harris, who helped the Jayhawks win their first 11
games and rise to No. 2.
That streak ended last week when Daniel came up
with another brilliant performance: the junior was
40-for-49 for 361 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-28
victory that clinched the Big 12 North title.
"You saw it, America saw it," Missouri coach Gary
Pinkel said. "This guy is special, and America got
to see how special he is."
Missouri is the only school in the country to score
30 points in every game and everything revolves around
the unflappable Daniel. He's among the top five in
the nation in touchdown passes (33), completion percentage
(70.5), total offense (351) and passing yards (3,951),
with a knack for coming up with big plays.
The last unanimous choice as conference offensive
player of the year, Texas quarterback Vince Young in
2005, led the Longhorns to a national title that year.