UK’s J.J. Weaver named Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year

Sophomore outside linebacker is one of three winners of the award who have overcome injury, illness or other adversity to excel on the field

LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Sophomore outside linebacker J.J. Weaver has been named one of the three winners of the 2021 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award, it was announced Tuesday by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), in association with The Associated Press (AP) and the Fiesta Bowl Organization.

Weaver joins Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Florida State’s McKenzie Milton and the three will be recognized at a special ceremony during the PlayStation® Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2022, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

This marks the second straight season Kentucky has had the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year as offensive guard Kenneth Horsey received the honor in 2020. Defensive end Josh Paschal was named honorable mention in 2019.

Weaver will not be able to attend the Fiesta Bowl as the Wildcats will be playing in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando. However, he will be recognized at halftime of the UK men’s basketball game on Wednesday, Dec. 22 vs. Western Kentucky in Rupp Arena.

Additionally, $30,000 will be donated in the names of the honorees to the general scholarship funds of their schools, with $15,000 being awarded in the names of the three winners and $15,000 on behalf of the six named honorable mention. The honorable mention honorees are: Taijh Alston (DE, West Virginia), Terrel Bernard (LB, Baylor), Jack Coan (QB. Notre Dame), Ryan Hubley (WR, Johns Hopkins), Cameron Rising (QB, Utah) and Avery Samuels (OL, Stetson).

Weaver, a 6-foot-5, 231-pounder from Louisville, Kentucky, was having a breakout freshman campaign with 33.5 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss through nine games of the 2020 season when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee at Florida last November. Despite missing the final two games, the redshirt freshman still earned All-Southeastern Conference Freshman Team honors.

That injury was just one part of a very difficult year for Weaver, who also lost his father to homicide and then in the fall of 2021 lost his beloved high school coach, Rob Reader, to liver cancer. As a result, his challenging off-season included both the rehabilitation of his knee and undergoing counseling to deal with his grief. Both were successful as he returned to the field with a strong knee and a clear mind for the 2021 season.

Weaver has played in all 12 games for the 22nd-ranked Wildcats, earning six starting assignments. He has recorded 34 tackles, including 10.0 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks, four quarterback hurries, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

Past winners of the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award have included:  2018 – Antwan Dixon (Kent State), Seth Simmer (Dartmouth), Antonio Wimbush (Carson-Newman); 2019 – Jake Luton (Oregon State), Drew Wilson (Georgia Southern), Octavion Wilson (Salisbury University); 2020 – Jarek Broussard (Colorado), Kenneth Horsey (Kentucky) and Silas Kelly (Coastal Carolina). For a complete list of past honorees and additional details on their remarkable comeback stories, visit; follow via Twitter at @ComebackPlayrFB via the hashtag #MayoClinicCPOY; and on Instagram at @Comeback_Player_CFB.  Mayo Clinic does not have any role in selecting the nominees or winners of the award.

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