2014 Arch Awards: Best Under-the-Radar Performance Nominees


Here at Arch Authority, we’re paying tribute to the 2014 season in St. Louis sports through the Arch Awards, which is our way to honor the finest moments, teams, and individual performers in our city this year. We’ll be revealing the nominees in six different categories over the next few days, continuing today with the Best Under-the-Radar Performance Award. This award is to be bestowed upon the athlete on the St. Louis sports scene who provided the most outstanding performance without widespread recognition during the 2014 calendar year. Our nominees are Cardinals relief pitcher Pat Neshek, Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines, Mizzou linebackers Michael Scherer and Kentrell Brothers, and SLU point guard Jordair Jett.

Please vote for the most deserving nominee below and scroll down to read more about why we believed the nominees to be deserving candidates.

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Pat Neshek: This past February, just days before the beginning of spring training, the Cardinals seemed to make a rather inconsequential move when they signed 33-year-old sidearming righthander Pat Neshek, who had a 3.07 ERA over 226 career relief appearances and had posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 45 games in 2013 with the Oakland Athletics, to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Little did anyone know that the Cardinals would be adding an All-Star and arguably baseball’s best middle reliever during 2014. Despite missing a chunk of spring training to be with his newborn son, Neshek was able to crack the Opening Day roster, and he far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Over 71 appearances, his most since the 2007 season, Neshek posted a 1.87 ERA and 0.787 WHIP with 68 strikeouts and nine walks over 67.1 innings. Neshek’s performance was good enough to earn him his first career All-Star appearance, and since he maintained his success in the second half and postseason, he’ll likely earn himself a hefty major-league contract this offseason.

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E.J. Gaines: Despite enjoying a strong college career at the University of Missouri and earning first-round projections from some NFL Draft experts at times in the offseason, cornerback E.J. Gaines fell dramatically in the 2014 Draft, finally being picked up with the 12th pick of the sixth round (188th overall) by the Rams. To emphasize this positioning, neither the two players selected before Gaines or the two taken after him are currently on NFL active rosters.

Since the Rams had already taken a nickel corner, Lamarcus Joyner, with their second-round pick, the thought was that Gaines would be battling with second-year corner Brandon McGee just to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. But after Gaines impressed during the preseason and projected starter Trumaine Johnson went down with a long-term injury, the rookie gained a starting spot and has not looked back.

Through 13 games, Gaines has 60 total tackles, good for fourth on the team, as well as a fumble recovery, two interceptions, and a team-leading 14 passes defended. He’s been arguably the defense’s most consistent player throughout the year, and he’s ascended from being a guy who was battling just to make the roster to being the best corner on the team, having pushed Johnson and Janoris Jenkins into rotational duty. For a team that has run through corners like paper at a printing press over the past 10 years or so, Gaines may be the closest thing to a shutdown corner the Rams have had in a long time if he maintains this level of performance.

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Kentrell Brothers & Michael Scherer: All year long, we’ve seen much of the credit for Mizzou’s spectacular defensive efforts go to the defensive linemen, particularly Shane Ray and Markus Golden. The success that vaulted the Tigers to a second straight SEC East Championship, however, would not have been possible without their two star linebackers, Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer.

Brothers, a redshirt junior, led the team during the regular season with 103 total tackles, while also picking up a sack and five tackles for loss. Scherer, a redshirt sophomore who became a starter for the first time at middle linebacker, wasn’t far behind, registering 100 total tackles with half a sack and three tackles for loss. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder also recovered two fumbles.

Though both the publicity and lucrative success will go to Ray and Golden, who are both projected by many as first-rounders in this year’s NFL Draft, Brothers and Scherer were crucial pieces in the Tigers’ SEC title run.

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Jordair Jett: When one thinks of the 2013-14 Saint Louis Billikens basketball team, it’s difficult to pinpoint a single superstar. The team succeeded in unison thanks to their five seniors who comprised the entirety of the starting lineup. In particular, though, point guard Jordair Jett experienced his greatest success as a senior, and that enabled him to win the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Award while also being named to the A-10 first-team All-Conference and All-Defensive teams.

Jett, one of the more physically imposing point guards you’ll ever see at 6-foot-1 and a bulky 215, averaged 13.9 points per game while leading the team in assists with 164 and steals with 51. He was also crucial in the Bills’ opening round tournament victory over NC State, scoring 18 points and scoring the game-tying points that allowed the Billikens to take the Wolfpack to overtime.

Jett was criminally under-appreciated for his efforts, barely even gaining a mention in NBA Draft discussion while apparently failing to receive any sufficient pro offers elsewhere. However, he’ll always have his immense success in his senior season to validate his accomplishments as a player.