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WSU DE Hercules Mata’afa named to Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list

Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns, top left, is sacked by Washington State defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Stanford, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

PULLMAN – Every year the Lott IMPACT Trophy is given to the defensive college football player whose blend of athletic prowess and high character best embodies the spirit of Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.

In 2018 that player might be Washington State defensive end Hercules Mata’afa. The redshirt junior and two-time All-Pac-12 selection is one of 42 players named to the trophy’s watch list. The Pac-12 leads all conferences with 10 players on the watch list, followed by the ACC (nine), Big Ten (eight) and SEC (six).

That means the Cougars will see some mighty fine defenders this year, such as fellow watch list members Porter Gustin (USC), Chase Hansen (Utah), Derek McCartney (Colorado), Harrison Phillips (Stanford), Cameron Saffle (California), Cameron Smith (USC), Azeem Victor (Washington).

Koron Crump (Arizona State) and Kenny Young (UCLA) also made the list, but would only face the Cougars in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The Lott IMPACT Trophy claims to be “the first and only award to equally recognize athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the player.” These attributes are: integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.

Past winners include stars like Glenn Dorsey, Luke Kuechly, Manti Te’o and Jabrill Peppers.