Gophers safety Wells earns national honor

Derrick Wells is making a name for himself on the national stage.

Minnesota defensive back Derrick Wells intercepts a pass intended for UNLV wide receiver Devante Davis last Thursday night in Las Vegas. Wells also intercepted a Rebels pass in overtime, which led to the Gophers' game-winning field goal.

Mark Vancleave, Daily File Photo

Minnesota defensive back Derrick Wells intercepts a pass intended for UNLV wide receiver Devante Davis last Thursday night in Las Vegas. Wells also intercepted a Rebels pass in overtime, which led to the Gophers’ game-winning field goal.

Dane Mizutani

Gophers sophomore safety Derrick Wells is slowly making a name for himself on the national stage.

Wells was named the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday, one day after he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

“It was a big accomplishment for me,” Wells said. “Now people are going to expect more from me, and I’m ready for the challenge.”

Wells intercepted two passes in the Gophers’ 30-27 triple overtime victory over Nevada-Las Vegas last Thursday. His second interception came in the third overtime and set up Minnesota’s game-winning field goal.

“He’s a big-time player. I’ve said that all along,” head coach Jerry Kill said after the win at UNLV. “He’s a pretty special player … and the good thing is he proved that on game night.”

The Florida native also tied for the team lead with eight tackles — matching his total from all of last season — in his first career start at safety for the Gophers.

He appeared in 11 games last year in a limited role at cornerback. He added nearly 20 pounds in the offseason to make the switch to safety for this season.

Wells was added Tuesday to the 2012 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List, an award given to the top defensive player in the nation at the end of the season.

He’s a player Kill mentioned as a possible All-Big Ten safety at the Big Ten Media Days in July after an impressive summer camp.

So far, so good.