WACO, Texas -- Three Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) football student-athlete standouts captured AFCA All-America recognition.
The AFCA has selected an All-America team since 1945 and currently selects teams in all five of its divisions. Beginning last year, the AFCA has started selecting a first and second team. What makes these teams so special is that they are the only ones chosen exclusively by the men who know the players the best — the coaches themselves.
|2017 AFCA Division II Coaches' All-America Team|
|QB||Travis Tarnowski||Ashland||Sr.||5-11||Broadview Heights, Ohio||First|
|DL||Zach Sieler*||Ferris State||Jr.||6-6||Pinckney, Mich.||First|
|DB||Tavierre Thomas||Ferris State||Sr.||6-0||Detroit, Mich.||Second|
* - 2016 AFCA All-American
Tarnowski threw for 3,044 yards and 31 touchdowns to just five interceptions in 2017, and completed 59 percent of his passes. He threw for two or more touchdowns in a game 10 times this fall, rushed for 156 yards and a score, and averaged 36.9 yards on 36 punts. Tarnowski was the GLIAC Player of the Year leading and a Harlon Hill nominee.
Sieler was tabbed as the GLIAC's Defensive Lineman of the Year for the second-straight year and also recently chosen as the Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) Super Region Three Defensive Player of the Year. He led the Bulldogs with 21 tackles for loss (-74 yards) and seven quarterback sacks (-46 yards) while ranking third in total tackles (79) in addition to forcing two fumbles, recovering two fumbles, breaking up two passes and blocking a quick.
Thomas ranked among the league and national leaders with 18 total pass breakups and four interceptions while garnering the GLIAC Defensive Back of the Year honor. The two-time first team All-GLIAC selection finished right behind Sieler on the squad with 60 total stops and added two tackles for loss while starting all 13 games in his final season as a Bulldog.
Team Background: The five teams now chosen for each AFCA division evolved from a single 11-player squad in 1945. From 1945 until 1967, only one team was chosen. From 1967 through 1971, two teams – University Division and College Division – were selected. In 1972, the College Division was split into College I and College II. In 1979, the University Division was split into two teams — FBS and FCS. In 1996, the College I and College II teams were renamed Division II and Division III, respectively. In 2006, the AFCA started selecting an NAIA-only team.
From 1965-81, a 22-player (11 offensive, 11 defensive) team was chosen. In 1982, a punter and placekicker were added to the team. In 1997, a return specialist was added, giving us the current 25-player team. The return specialist position was replaced by an all-purpose player in 2006.
Selection Process: The AFCA's Division II All-America Selection Committee is made up of three head coaches from each of the AFCA's seven districts, one of whom serves as a district chairman, along with another head coach who serves as the chairman of the selection committee. The coaches in each district are responsible for ranking the top players in their respective districts prior to a conference call between the district chairmen and the committee chairman on which the teams are chosen.
The Award: Members of the AFCA Coaches' All-America First Team will receive a plaque commemorating their selection to the team, while members of the Second Team will receive a certificate.
Consecutive Years: Texas A&M-Kingsville had at least one player named to the AFCA Division II Coaches' All-America Team for 18 straight seasons, from 1986 to 2003, the longest streak by any team in Division II. Northwest Missouri State is second, having had 16 straight selections from 1996 to 2011. Pittsburg State has the third longest streak at nine straight selections from 1988 to 1996. Texas A&M-Commerce has the longest active streak with five straight selections from 2013 to today.
Top Teams: Texas A&M-Kingsville has been represented a total of 34 times by 30 players on the AFCA Division II Coaches' All-America Team, to lead all schools. Trailing Texas A&M-Kingsville is Texas A&M-Commerce (22/19), Northwest Missouri State (21/16), North Alabama (20/19), Pittsburg State (20/16), Indiana (Pa.) (19/17), Ferris State (19/15), Carson-Newman (16/15), Grand Valley State (16/15), Ashland (15/14), Mississippi College (15/14), New Haven (14/14), American International (14/13), Valdosta State (14/12), Colorado Mesa (13/11), Catawba (13/10), Indianapolis (12/12), Saginaw Valley State (12/12), Angelo State (12/11), Eastern New Mexico (11/9), LIU-Post (11/9), Slippery Rock (11/9), West Georgia (10/10), West Texas A&M (10/10), Winston-Salem State (10/10), Central Washington (10/9), Sioux Falls (10/9), St. Cloud State (10/9), Central State (10/8), Mars Hill (10/8) and Minnesota State (10/7).
Back-to-Back: Eastern New Mexico running back Kamal Cass, Texas A&M-Commerce offensive lineman Jared Machorro, Slippery Rock defensive lineman Marcus Martin, Ferris State defensive lineman Zach Sieler, Tuskegee linebacker Osband Thompson and Delta State running back Chris Robinson are the six players who earned AFCA Division II Coaches' All-America honors for the second consecutive season in 2017.
Three-peat: Catawba linebacker Kyle Kitchens became the fourth player in Division II history to be named to three straight AFCA All-America Teams. Kitchens was a first-team selection in 2015 and 2017, and a second-team selection in 2016. He joins Brandon Williams, a defensive lineman from Missouri Southern State (2010-12), running back Jonas Randolph from Mars Hill (2009-11) and Tywan Mitchell, a wide receiver from Minnesota State (1996-98).
Yearly Leader: Texas A&M-Commerce (2017-OL Jared Machorro, QB Luis Perez and DB Yusef Sterling-Lowe) became the first school to have more than two players named to the AFCA Division II Coaches' All-America Team in one year.
Repeat After Me: Texas A&M-Kingsville's Johnny Bailey is the only player to earn AFCA All-America honors in four consecutive years at any level. Bailey was a four-year pick at running back in 1986-87-88-89.
Two Players, Two Schools: Punter Mark Bounds and placekicker Greg Zuerlein are the only players to earn AFCA All-America honors at two different schools. Bounds was named to the AFCA College Division I team in 1990 while playing for West Texas A&M. He transferred to Texas Tech after West Texas dropped football and earned I-A All-America honors as a Red Raider in 1991. Zuerlein was named to the Division II Coaches' All-America Team in 2009 while playing for Nebraska-Omaha. He transferred to Missouri Western State after Nebraska-Omaha dropped its football program and earned Division II honors in 2011 as a Griffon.
Class Distinction: This year's Division II Coaches' All-America Team is made up of 37 seniors, 10 juniors, two sophomores and one graduate student.
It's Been A While: Wide receiver J.T. Luper from Central Oklahoma and defensive back Max Redfield from Indiana (Pa.) have earned AFCA Coaches' All-America Team honors for their schools for the first time since 2007 and 2009, respectively.
First Time's A Charm: Gannon running back Marc Jones, Assumption all-purpose player Deonte Harris and place-kicker Cole Tracy earned honors for their schools for the first time in AFCA Division II Coaches' All-America Team history.