Liberty senior Antonio Gandy-Golden was one of 12 receivers named semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award on Monday morning, marking the first time a player from Liberty is named a semifinalist for a major Football Bowl Subdivision award.
The Biletnikoff Award is awarded annually to the season’s outstanding FBS receiver. Any player, regardless of position (wide receiver, tight end, slot back and running back) who catches a pass is eligible for the award.
The other 11 semifinalists include: Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, last season’s Biletnikoff winner, and DeVonta Smith; Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb; LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson; Arkansas State’s Omar Bayless; Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt, who is out for the remainder of the season after suffering an undisclosed injury against Virginia Tech on Nov. 9; Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman; Oregon State’s Isaiah Hodgins; USC’s Michael Pittman Jr.; and SMU’s James Proche.
The vote to determine the three finalists will take place this week, and the finalists will be announced Nov. 25.
“His numbers speak for themselves,” Flames coach Hugh Freeze said Monday of Gandy-Golden. “If I can politic for him, I think he deserves to be there.”
Gandy-Golden, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound Chicago native who was on the Biletnikoff Award watch list last season during Liberty’s inaugural FBS season, ranks second in the nation in receiving yards (1,244) and receiving yards per game (124.4) behind Bayless.
He leads the Flames with 64 catches and eight receiving touchdowns, and last week he accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 25 in Mobile, Alabama.
“Honestly, I’m past my expectations. I didn’t expect this at all,” Gandy-Golden said earlier this season, adding his goals for the campaign were 1,000 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. “I expected to have a good year just because I knew I was going to work hard. Right now it’s going to be a lot better than I planned.”
Gandy-Golden has topped the 100-yard mark seven times this season, with a high of 181 yards against Hampton on Sept. 21.
He racked up 162 yards in the Flames’ most recent outing two weekends ago at BYU, and he recorded 105 of his 119 yards in the first quarter of the team’s opener against Syracuse.
“Oh, man, really, really strong ball skills,” UVa coach Bronco Mendenhall said when asked about Gandy-Golden at his Monday press conference. “So he catches the ball with great range, meaning outside of his body, high, to the side, low. So his hands and his range — there’s a lot of receivers that are strong within the framework. He has really nice range of wherever the ball is; he reaches, extends. Then the position mastery of his position and how he’s being used in the scheme, all those things combine to help him be really effective.”
Gandy-Golden needs 136 receiving yards in the regular season’s final two games to break Darrin Peterson’s single-season mark of 1,379 yards set in 2014.
Gandy-Golden already owns the Liberty program record for most career receptions (225), receiving yards (3,662) and receiving touchdowns (31), and he is the only receiver in program history with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
“He’s an NFL player,” Freeze said. “He’s durable, so I think he’s got a chance to have a long career doing this.”
Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.