clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Who is Mountain West Connection's professional athlete of the year?

The conference has churned out plenty of talent over the years, but which former MWC athlete had the best 2015?

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Don't forget! Our vote for the Mountain West Connection collegiate athlete of the year is live, and we want to hear who you think had the best 2015 across the conference's numerous sports. Click here to see the nominees and select a player.

2015 is coming to a close, so we at Mountain West Connection want you, our readers, to help us decide who deserves to be recognized as the site's choice for professional athlete of the year! To clarify, all of our nominees were formerly athletes for programs in the MWC (though in some instances, they may have still have been in the WAC when they were in college, but bear with us!), but enjoyed 2015 as a part of the professional ranks -- MLB, NFL, NBA, you name it.

The question remains, though? Which former MWC athlete had the best 2015 in the pros? The nominees are presented below, and the vote can be found below near the comments.

Shaquil Barrett, Denver Broncos linebacker - A former Defensive Player of the Year at Colorado State, the second-year pass rusher has begun to bring the same heat on NFL quarterbacks that he once did in Fort Collins. He's earned more playing time in Demarcus Ware's absence, collecting 5 1/2 sacks and forcing three fumbles for arguably the league's best defense.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders quarterback - After rewriting the record books at Fresno State, the strong-armed Carr has begun to look like the franchise quarterback many in the Raider Nation believed he could be. Despite being eliminated from the playoffs, #4 has, to date, thrown for 3,589-30-11 while completing 61% of his passes. The future is bright in the Black Hole.

James Jones, Green Bay Packers wide receiver - Jones does one thing as an NFL receiver, catch contested passes from Aaron Rodgers, and he does it well. After bouncing around to Oakland and the New York Giants, the former San Jose State player reunited with the best QB in the game and has arguably put together his best year to date, hauling in 41 catches for 742 yards -- a staggering 18.1 yards per catch -- and a team-high eight receiving touchdowns.

Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys defensive end - While America's Team has been plagued by injuries to its stars, the former Boise State player has come into his own in 2015. In his first full season of action, Lawrence has collected a team-high seven sacks and made 48 tackles, cementing his status as the next young defensive star in Dallas.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs small forward - If you ever wonder why the Spurs will probably be good forever, it's because they develop talents like Leonard year after year. The former San Diego State star averaged 17.2 points and seven rebounds after January 1 in the 2014-15 season, and has only raised his game in the ongoing campaign, averaging 21.1 and 7.4 in 27 games so far while also connecting on a career-best 87.7% of free throw attempts.

Rishard Matthews, Miami Dolphins wide receiver - Miami might be in disarray after failing to meet high expectations, but Matthews, formerly of Nevada, has been a pleasant surprise. A seventh-round draft pick in 2012, Matthews has set career highs in catches (43), receiving yards (662) and receiving touchdowns (4) in spite of missing games due to injury.

Glover Quin, Detroit Lions safety - The Lions have been something of a disappointment following their playoff appearance in 2014, but their investment in the former New Mexico defender has continued to pay off. He's grabbed three interceptions in this 2015 NFL season, including his first career pick-six, and collected 62 tackles, as well.

Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs head coach - The Air Force doesn't really put players in the professional ranks, to we got a little inspired with the help of our Falcons writer Duane Grasmick. He is a 1970 graduate of the Academy, and he remained one of the NBA's best coaches throughout 2015. The Spurs couldn't defend their title in 2014-15, but they've very quietly compiled a 24-5 record so far in 2015-16 (as of publication), good enough to be second-best in the Western Conference.

Jerry Rief, marathoner - This probably stretches the format quite a bit, but the former Wyoming cross country athlete turned computer programmer completed an incredible accomplishment early in 2015: 50 marathons in 50 states. He did every one of them in under three hours over the years, including the one in Houston on his 50th birthday in January, becoming just one of six athletes to reach that particular bar.

Adam Scott, golfer - Though Scott didn't quite reach the heights of 2013, the year in which he won the Masters, the former UNLV player still managed top-ten finishes at two of the PGA's four majors. His best finish of the year was a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open in June, and he made a cool $1.38 million for his work.

Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks linebacker - Fresh off of signing a four-year extension, the Utah State product has stayed healthy and rebounded to his Pro Bowl form. To date, Wagner has racked up 101 tackles, forced two fumbles and defended six passes, numbers which have kept the Seahawks defense among the best in the NFL.

Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals second baseman - Clearly a beneficiary of #CardinalsDevilMagic, the Hawai'i product and former first-round pick continued to make good on his pedigree while helping St. Louis to another NL Central title. He slashed .262/.321/.386 in 150 games, with 11 home runs and 61 RBIs, making him worth 2.2 WAR (wins above replacement level) at the keystone.