10 players from Big 12 on Lombardi list

The Lombardi Award features my favorite trophy in sports. It's uncluttered, unique, and symbolic of what the award is about, being an immovable object or unstoppable force in the trenches.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a photo. The Heisman is undoubtedly more iconic, but give me the Lombardi as a sweeter trophy. There's not another one like it. Anybody can sculpt a bronze man with a leather helmet in a variety of football stances.

This year, the Big 12 will host 10 candidates for the award, given annually to the best player who essentially lines up in what's referred to as "the box," or down linemen on offense or players on defense who line up closer than 10 yards to the line of scrimmage and within five yards wide of where the ball is spotted.

In short, offensive linemen, linebackers and defensive linemen.

Here are some players to watch:

Pretty good list filled with the usual suspects for these sorts of things, minus Missouri's Aldon Smith, who finished fourth in the conference with 11.5 sacks last season. He absolutely deserved to be on this list. Fellow sophomore offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson of Kansas might have found a spot on here, too. The same goes for Jayhawks defensive end Jake Laptad. But again, it's just a watch list. Not being on the preseason list won't keep them from winning the award if they prove dominant during the season.

Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh won the 2009 award to give the Huskers their fifth winner, second-most nationally, behind Ohio State. Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy was also a finalist.

The Big 12 has taken home two consecutive Lombardi Awards; Brian Orakpo preceded Suh as 2008's winner.

Oklahoma and Texas have three winners each.

Texas A&M is the only other school in the Big 12 with a winner. Dat Nguyen, currently the Aggies linebackers coach, won the trophy in 1998.