Wisconsin Sports Network and WisSports.net are happy to announce Whitefish Bay's Joe Brunner as the 2021 recipient of the Joe Thomas Award as the most outstanding senior offensive lineman in Wisconsin, part of the WSN Senior Football Awards.
After earning Honorable Mention All-State as a sophomore at Whitefish Bay, Joe Brunner was a First Team choice by the WFCA in 2020/2021, adding WFCA All-Region on defense as well. As a senior, he was a two-way All-State pick by the WFCA.
Brunner gave a pledge to Wisconsin this summer after entertaining offers from top programs around the country. He’s a ready-made offensive linemen that should be able to step in at Wisconsin quickly, with outstanding size, movement skills, footwork, and technique. He's a big reason the Blue Dukes advanced to Level 3 of the playoffs this year and went unbeaten as the top-ranked medium school in the abbreviated 2020-21 season.
"Joe has been a 4 -year starter here at Whitefish Bay and has been the most dominant football player I have ever seen," said head coach Jake Wolter. "You rarely see the size, strength, and athleticism combination that he possesses in high school, but, what sets him apart is his attitude and mean streak when he gets between the lines. He doesn't just want to beat you, he wants to annihilate you each play."
Finalists for the award were Brunner, Carson Hinzman of Saint Croix Central, Evan Malcore of Sun Prairie, Joey Okla of Arrowhead, Billy Schrauth of Saint Mary's Springs, and Chad Schuster of Franklin.
Past winners include Waunakee's Jake Irwin (2009), Wisconsin Rapids' Frank Vruwink (2010), Waukesha West's Connor Stefanski (2011), Wisconsin Rapids' Hayden Biegel (2012), Monona Grove's Jaden Gault (2013), Seymour's Jon Dietzen (2014), Arrowhead's Ben Bredeson (2015), Middleton's Kayden Lyles (2016), Waukesha West's Bryce Teixeira (2017), and Fond du Lac's Andrew Stone (2018), Stoughton's Jack Nelson (2019), and Grafton's J.P. Benzschawel (2020).
The award is named after Joe Thomas, a graduate of Brookfield Central High School now playing in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. Thomas was a three-sport athlete in high school, lettering all four years in football, basketball, and track and field while also being named to the Honor Roll all four years. He started 37 games at left tackle for the Badgers and won the Outland Trophy after his senior season. After an All-American career at UW, Thomas was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl each of his first ten years in the league and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
The voting panel for the WSN Senior Football Awards consisted of: Travis Wilson, WSN General Manager and Head Football Writer; Norbert Durst, WSN Content Manager; Dennis Semrau, ESPN Madison; B.J. DeGroot, WSCO The Score 95.3 in Appleton; Curt Hogg, NOW Newspapers; Dan Barwick, WSN Contributor; Colton Wilson, WSN Content Producer; Fan Vote
Travis Wilson serves as the WisSports.net General Manager, Football Editor, and contributing writer for other parts of the site. Wilson was selected as part of the Sports 40 Under 40 list by Coach & AD Magazine and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association for 2019. The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) named Travis the 2015 recipient of the Dave McClain Distinguished Service Award. He currently serves on the WFCA Executive Board as the Website and Communications Director and is a member of the Executive Board of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. A graduate of Richland Center High School and Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Travis was a three-sport athlete in high school (football, baseball, basketball) and currently resides in Reedsburg. You can follow him on Twitter at @travisWSN.
For the latest and most up to date football news and recruiting information, follow Travis on Twitter @travisWSN. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Travis at travis(at)wissports.net.