The Joe Thomas Award is given annually to the state's top senior offensive lineman as part of the WSN Senior Football Awards presented by Taco Bell. The award is named after former Brookfield Central and University of Wisconsin athlete Joe Thomas, who has gone on to great success in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. After an All-American career at UW, Thomas has been selected to the NFL Pro Bowl each of his three years in the league.
The pre-season watch list was trimmed down to 25 semi-finalists, and seven finalists for the award have now been selected. Winners are announced the week of the state finals.
Joe Thomas Award Finalists:
Michael Biese, Kimberly -- Biese was a First Team All-Conference choice in the FVA last year and had an even better season as a senior. He recently was selected First Team All-Conference again, this time on a unanimous basis and was also named the Offensive Lineman of the Year in the new VFA-North. "Michael is extremely athletic and very good at the point of attack," head coach Steve Jones said. "Whenever we needed to pick up yards we ran to Michael's side. Our run game was effective because Michael is that dominant and that versatile."
Mike Edwards, Sun Prairie -- Edwards is a three-year starter for the Cardinals, who have amassed a 25-7 record with two Big Eight Conference championships in his time in red and white. He was a First Team All-Conference selection last season and will surely be this year as well. "He has grown as a player and as a person more than any other player I have coached," Kaminski said of his senior captain. "He led our team with 59 pancakes this year and was so dominating in a game that he was chosen as the offensive player of the game, the first time we have ever had a lineman win that award."
Joel Isenberger, Monona Grove -- Isenberger is part of one of the state's biggest and best offensive lines at Monona Grove, a group that also includes standout senior Theron Bauman, who received strong consideration for a finalist spot. Isenberger was a First Team All-Conference pick last season in the Badger-South and will likely be a repeat selection at the upcoming conference meeting. The Silver Eagles completed a second straight unbeaten regular season and are one of the favorites to advance to the Division 2 state title game. Monona Grove has worn down opponents with their line this season, and Isenberger often leads the way from his guard position on the inside runs.
Levon Myers, Franklin -- Myers has prototypical size at 6-6, 260 pounds and will likely repeat as a First Team All-Conference choice in the tough Southeast Conference this season. "Levon is as good as we have had in my 19 years here," head coach Louis Brown said. "He is a very humble young man with a bright future in whatever he does." Myers took on an even bigger role this season, lining up as a two-way player on the Sabers defensive line. Still, it is his work on offense that got him the attention that eventually led him to accept a scholarship from Northern Illinois recently. He is a powerful run blocker who can collapse his side of the line to clear holes for the backs.
Josh Ruka, Greenfield -- A First Team All-Conference choice last year, Ruka will certainly repeat this season. He features outstanding size but his athletic ability is what leaves him with considerable potential remaining. Ruka received seven scholarship offers, but chose Northern Illinois back in June. "Josh is a dominant offensive lineman," Hustlin' Hawks head coach Scott Otto said. "He has everything you look for in a lineman: size, feet, attitude, and smart. He's an extremely hard worker, unselfish, and is improving everyday."
Collin Smith, Muskego -- "Collin is the best guard I have coached in my 15 years as head coach," Muskego's Kenneth Krause said. "He is the leader of an offensive line that has helped us averaged more than 40 points per game the last two years, making all the line calls and checks." A true student of the game, Smith is a tireless worker on the field and in the film room. One of the team's leaders, he has helped the Warriors to a 9-1 record so far on the season.
Connor Stefanski, Waukesha West -- Stefanski was a big part of last season's Division 1 state title team and has been outstanding this year as West has gone a perfect 10-0 so far. "Connor has been a starter at offensive tackle the past three years and is out best offensive lineman this year," head coach Steve Rux said. "He has been a dominant player against everyone he has faced this year is the best offensive tackle we have had at West in the past 12 years." Stefanski committed to Ball State shortly before the season started.