Michigan State football RB Kenneth Walker III a Maxwell Award semifinalist

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EAST LANSING — As the weekly awards keep rolling in for Kenneth Walker III, the Michigan State running back’s quest for national awards continues to grow as well.

Walker was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award that goes to college football's best all-around player annually. The junior also earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors for the second time this season following his 197-yard, five-touchdown performance in the sixth-ranked Spartans’ 37-33 win over No. 10 Michigan on Saturday.

Safety Brad Van Pelt in 1972 is the only MSU player to ever win the Maxwell Award, and the Owosso native was the first defensive back to win it before transitioning to linebacker in the NFL.

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“He's hyper-competitive. He wants to ball, and he wants to win,” MSU coach Mel Tucker said Monday of Walker. “And he's got the talent and the mental makeup to to get the job done. His mental disposition towards competing is at an elite level.”

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III (9) celebrates a touchdown against Michigan during the second half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.
Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III (9) celebrates a touchdown against Michigan during the second half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.

On Saturday, became MSU’s first 1,000-yard rusher in eight seasons and ranks No. 2 in the nation with 1,194 yards this season. He continues to lead the nation at 149.2 yards per game on the ground and ranks third in the country in total touchdowns (15), rushing touchdowns (14) and scoring per game (11.2 points), and is fourth in total points scored (90). Walker's 6.82 yards per carry is ninth nationally and second in the Big Ten among players averaging at least 10 rushing attempts per game.

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The other 14 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award are Alabama QB Bryce Young, Pitt QB Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss QB Matt Corral, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud, Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman, Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder, SMU QB Tanner Mordecai, Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall, Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong, Liberty QB Malik Willis, Texas RB Bijan Robinson, Syracuse RB Sean Tucker, Iowa State RB Breece Hall and USC WR Drake London.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior transfer from Wake Forest solidified his Heisman Trophy candidacy Saturday with 101 of his 197 yards and two touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter, scoring a third second-half TD to rally MSU from a 16-point deficit in the final 22 minutes against U-M. Walker’s five touchdowns are the most ever allowed in the 142-year history against Michigan football.

He was a unanimous midseason first-team All-American according to The Associated Press and four other national media outlets.

The Spartans (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) hit the road Saturday to face Purdue (5-3, 3-2). Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. in West Lafayette, Indiana (ABC).

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: MSU RB Kenneth Walker III named a Maxwell Award semifinalist