ISL editor Cliff Brunt picks Top 10 Indiana athletes of 2012

By CLIFF BRUNT
ISL Editor

I know, this is a bit late for a look back at the Top 10 Indiana athletes of 2012. Forgive me, I was enjoying the ocean, margaritas and 70-degree heat in Key West through the New Year and decided to put this off a bit.

Cliff Brunt, ISL Editor

There were many worthy athletes to choose from, but here is my list. I limited this to athletes who were in school in Indiana or played on Indiana’s pro teams. I exclude people from Indiana who played for teams outside the state. Videos will be listed with the YouTube handle of the source in parentheses.

10. Tyler Eifert

Tyler Eifert makes a catch against BYU. Eifert won the Mackey Award for the nation’s best tight end. From Notre Dame Athletics.

The Notre Dame star won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top college tight end and was a key part of the Irish’s run to the national title game. He caught 50 passes for 685 yards and four touchdowns. The award recognizes not only outstanding athletic prowess on the field, but good sportsmanship, strong academic standing and exceptional leadership abilities. Eifert became the first Notre Dame player to win the award and the first to win the award and play for the National Championship in the same season.

9. Danny Granger

The Pacers forward finally helped win a playoff series after years of being considered a scorer who just couldn’t break through in the postseason. He averaged 18.7 points per game last season and was by far the leading scorer on a 42-24 team – Roy Hibbert was second with 12.8 per game. Granger has missed this season with an injured left knee, but his success last season makes him deserving of being on this list. He is now considered one of the top scorers in Pacers history, and if he can recover from his knee injury, his number might make it to the rafters at Bankers Life.

Danny Granger video (CroPETROforeverNBA)

8. Skylar Diggins

The point guard for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team averaged 16.8 points, 5.7 assists and 2.6 steals per game as a junior and led the Fighting Irish to the national championship game for the second straight year. She is averaging 14.8 points and 5.9 assists this season. She’s well on her way to making the list in 2013 – she recently led Notre Dame to a win over then-No. 1 Connecticut.

Skylar Diggins video (Kailey Beard)

7. Cody Zeller

Cody Zeller goes up against Butler.

Indiana University’s star was the Associated Press preseason player of the year and a key reason the Hoosiers have returned to national prominence. Last season, he averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game to lead Indiana back to the NCAA tournament. This season, he’s averaging 16.5 points and 7.9 rebounds, helping Indiana to a 14-1 start and a preseason No. 1 ranking. So far, the Hoosiers have lost only to Butler in overtime.

6. David Boudia

The Purdue University student and Noblesville High graduate won the 10-meter platform diving event at the London Olympics. He also won bronze along with Nicholas McCrory in the synchronized 10-meter platform. It was the first U.S. gold medal in the event since Greg Louganis won in 1988. Boudia’s winning dive is in the video below.

David Boudia video (olympic)

5. Reggie Wayne

Wayne was one of the main reasons Andrew Luck’s transition to the NFL was so seamless. Wayne was Mr. Dependable with 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns. He was responsible for 73 first downs. Perhaps most impressive, he did it during a season in which he turned 34 years old. Wayne also gets credit for helping mentor a young set of receivers.

4. Robbie Hummel

Robbie Hummel shoots free throws alone after the High Point game in November 2011. By Cliff Brunt.

It’s a testament to the quality of sports in this state that this man somehow isn’t No. 1. He came back from missing an entire season with a torn ACL and averaged 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He was the leader who turned a team filled with role players into a cohesive unit. His first half against Kansas in the NCAA tournament, in which he scored 22 points on 7-for-8 shooting – goes down in Purdue lore as one of the great performances ever. The fact that he not only came back, but was good enough to be drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves is nothing short of miraculous. Hummel was an exceptional player, but his ability to overcome adversity makes him the truest of legends in this state.

Robbie Hummel video (ThePaintCrew)

3. Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck takes questions after the Colts’ 23-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

So many people were upset when the Colts let Peyton Manning go. So many of those people now have No. 12 jerseys in their closets right now. Out goes a legend, and in comes a prodigy. The Colts went 2-14 last season, but with the No. 1 overall draft pick from Stanford leading the way, Indy bounced back, went 11-5 and reached the playoffs. Luck passed for an NFL rookie record 4,374 yards. Luck did it all with a shaky offensive line, an average running game, a bunch of unproven receivers outside of Wayne and Donnie Avery and a coach who missed most of the season while battling leukemia. Most of all, in a season filled with change, he made it seem like nothing had changed at all. Below are highlights of his game against Miami, when he set an NFL rookie record with 433 yards passing.

Andrew Luck video (41indianapoliscolts)

2. Manti Te’o

Manti Te’o lines up against USC in 2011. From Notre Dame Athletics.

Notre Dame’s linebacker was second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, becoming a national sensation with his ability to dominate games as a defensive player. He intercepted seven passes, an unusually high total for his position, and had double-digit tackles seven times while anchoring one of the nation’s best defenses.

Among his honors, he won the 2012 Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year Lott Trophy and the Maxwell, Bednarik, Nagurski, Butkus, Lombardi and Walter Camp awards. He also was named a national scholar-athlete by the National Football Foundation.

Among his accomplishments:

- For the third consecutive season, he registered more than 100 tackles.

- He spearheaded not one, but two goal-line stands for the ages against Stanford and USC.

- He was captain of a team that began the season unranked, yet finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the nation, going 12-0 (the program’s first undefeated regular season in nearly a quarter of a century).

- He graduated in December in just three-and-a-half years with a 3.32 GPA.

Manti Te’o video (Notre Dame Athletics)

1. Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings poses with her Olympic gold medal.

The Indiana Fever forward won an Olympic gold medal for the United States in women’s basketball, then came back across the pond and won a WNBA championship. She averaged 22.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in the WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx, carrying the team while Indiana’s No. 2 scorer, Katie Douglas, missed the entire series with an ankle injury. Catchings was the Finals MVP, the WNBA’s defensive player of the year and finished third in the league MVP balloting. She won the MVP award in 2011, then had a statistically better year last year. At 33 years old, she showed no signs of slowing down. Very few athletes in any sport accomplished as much as Catchings in 2012. She is beloved in Indiana not only because of her ability, but because of her faith and service to others through her Catch the Stars Foundation.

Tamika Catchings video (WNBA)

So, do you agree? Was someone left out? Let me know, via Twitter address below, by comment or by e-mail at cliff.brunt@indysportslegends.com. As always, a sincere thanks to everyone who has helped our site draw more than 170,000 views since launch in May.

Also: ISL’s Top 10 games of 2012.

Follow ISL editor Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbrunt_isl.

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