Safety in numbers

Smithson Valley alum Trevon Moehrig wins Jim Thorpe Award for top college defensive back


TCU Football

Trevon Moehrig won the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award, a first for TCU and Smithson Valley.

Jackson Posey, Sports Director

At 6 p.m. Thursday, numerous families around the Spring Branch area tuned into ESPN to watch the Home Depot College Football Awards show. But it wasn’t just background noise – this year, area fans had a dog in the fight. The camera panned over a graphic of the three finalists before a voiceover delivered the verdict.

“The winner of the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award is: Trevon Moehrig of TCU.”

It was a historic first for TCU and Smithson Valley, as neither institution had produced a Thorpe Award winner before. Smithson Valley defensive coordinator Craig Wersterfer, a key face in Moehrig’s development, smiles when he ponders Moehrig’s high school career.

“Trevon’s just a great kid,” Wersterfer said. “A great character guy, works really hard. He’s obviously gifted [with] God-given ability, but he’s done his best to maximize his potential through work ethic, and just getting after it.”

Moehrig’s competition for the award was steep: Central Florida safety Richie Grant led the AAC in solo tackles per game (5.4) and just made his third consecutive all-conference first-team appearance. Meanwhile, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II, a top-10 draft prospect on The Draft Network’s consensus big board, is gearing up for the national championship game.

But the voters instead selected Moehrig, Mel Kiper Jr’s No. 1 safety prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft. Analytics site Pro Football Focus is among Moehrig’s staunchest supporters – their scouts have graded Moehrig as their top safety in the country for two years running, and currently list him as this draft class’ 27th-best prospect overall.

“We knew he was a gifted athlete coming up through the program from the time he stepped on campus, [but] the difference between a gifted athlete and somebody really special is that work ethic and character,” Wersterfer said. “And it didn’t take long to realize that he had that too. When he came on campus, he was a hard worker and did nothing but improve that as he went, so it was pretty evident early on that, he has a chance to be a special person.”

Moehrig was electric in high school, when he primarily played cornerback. In the first game of his sophomore season, he forced a fumble and snagged a key interception off Midland Lee quarterback Sema’j Davis, now at ACU. The Rangers won, 21-14, and Moehrig used that game as a launchpad to tie the school’s single-season interception record (seven). He also ran back two pick-sixes.

Moehrig also returned punts and kicks in his three seasons at Smithson Valley, and he was darn good at it. In 2016, he set every school punt return record: total yards (340), yards per return (28.3), touchdowns (4) and longest return (80 yards). All that on just 12 returns.

As one might expect, he also holds all of the school’s career punt return records by a wide margin.

He was just as dynamic on kickoffs, again setting every career record possible: total yards (1,243), yards per return (31.9), touchdowns (4) and longest return (102 yards). It was an unprecedented level of juice for the Rangers’ special teams unit, and one that frustrated opposing teams to no end.

After his sophomore season, the coaching staff began cooking up new ways to get their best playmaker the ball. In an effort to keep Moehrig on the field, they decided to occasionally play him three ways. He played a small role in 2016, just 17 offensive touches, but he turned them into 432 yards and six touchdowns. That’s 25.4 yards per touch, and less than three touches per touchdown.

In 2017, with new quarterback Levi Williams, Moehrig’s offensive role grew. He caught 30 passes for 699 yards and 11 touchdowns, and rushed 23 times for 219 yards and three touchdowns. That production brought him to 1,085 yards receiving, and his 25.8 yards per catch average ranks first by a solid margin.

Despite his next-level success at safety, the biggest play of his high school career came on offense. The year was 2017, and the Rangers trailed then-undefeated Judson in overtime, 37-34. With their backs against the wall and a district title on the line, the team called Moehrig’s number. And he delivered.