On Wednesday, Dec. 13, it was announced that three members of the Shepherd Rams football team were selected as Division II All-Americans by the Associated Press (AP). Senior defensive end Myles Humphrey, senior offensive lineman Lavonte Hights, and sophomore tight end DJ Cornish all were picked as first team All-Americans.
Both Hights and Humphrey also were selected as D2CCA All-Americans prior to this announcement on Wednesday as well. Additionally, Humphrey and Hights were both placed on the 2017 D2CCA All-Super Region One 1 Team back on Dec. 1.
The head coach of the Rams, Monte Cater, via email, stated how proud he was to have three of his players named as All-Americans.
“This was an outstanding year for postseason recognition for our football team. The very prestigious All-American honors followed a number of MEC and All-Region selections. To have [three]3 first team All-Americans in the same year says a lot about our program and especially for these [three]3 tremendous young men,” Cater said.
Humphrey, who finished his career with 40 sacks (-229 yards), has the most sacks in Rams’ history. This season, Humphrey’s 12.5 sacks (-70 yards) and 20 tackles-for-loss (-89 yards) were the most by any Rams’ player. Humphrey also filled up the stat sheet with four forced fumbles and three pass breakups this season.
Further accolades for Humphrey include being selected as a nominee for the Cliff Harris Award on Wednesday, Dec. 13, which is given to the country’s best small college defensive player from Division II, Division III, or the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). Humphrey also was placed on the 2017 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II Coaches’ All-American Team as a second team selection back on Dec. 6.
Thanks to his hard work in the classroom, Humphrey was also named to the 2017 Academic All-America Division II Football Team back on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
Cater paid tribute to Humphrey’s achievements both on and off the field as well.
“Myles Humphrey is a great example of the true student athlete. Not only was Myles a great player (All-American, Defensive POY[Player of the Year] in the MEC, Shepherd [a]All-[t]Time [s]Sack [l]Leader), [h]He was a Captain, headed our FCA Chapter, and had already been selected as an Academic All-American. He was a leader and successful in all he did!” Cater said.
Humphrey, through email, stated how much it means to him to be selected as an All-American.
“It’s a true blessing to be recognized as an All-American. It’s one thing to be recognized within your conference, but it really makes me feel good when you get honored on a [n]National scale. My father was an All-American track runner in college[,] so he set the bar high for me and growing up I set a personal goal for myself to be an All-American too! It’s a blessing to see your hard work paying off and being honored!” Humphrey said.
Knowing that his name will always be remembered in Rams’ history means a great deal to Humphrey.
“I’m extremely proud to always be remembered in Shepherd history. I’ve put a lot of hard work into this program with my brothers over the past few years. I’m blessed to have the experience to play at Shepherd and compete for championships!” Humphrey said.
The Rams will miss Humphrey, who was perhaps the biggest pass-rushing threat the Rams have ever had. His ability to breakup passes, put pressure on the quarterback, and force fumbles is something that the Rams’ coaching staff will never forget.
Hights played in 49 straight games for the Rams, the most in school history. The blocking ability of Hights aided in the Rams’ offense finishing third in the country in scoring offense, fifth in total offense, and seventh in passing offense.
Against Charleston on Senior Day, Hights displayed his receiving skills as well. Hights caught a pass that traveled backwards from Rams quarterback Connor Jessop, also as senior, and followed his blockers into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown run in the Rams’ 49-12 victory on Senior Day.
Hights has earned much respect for his play on the field as a lineman. He came in third place in the 2017 Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award voting on Nov. 29, which recognizes the country’s best lineman on the Division II level.
And earning that respect has certainly not gone unnoticed by Hights, who explained via email how it felt to be recognized for his excellent play on the field.
“It truly feels amazing to be recognized. As an offensive lineman, we are rarely credited with the team[‘]s success. It delights me to know that others throughout the whole nation[,] not just the conference[,] recognizes my talent and considers me an elite player at this level. It’s a[n] honor and [a] blessing!” Hights explained.
Hights also gave credit to who helped him along the way into becoming an All-American.
“My high school offensive line coach ‘[C]coach [W]west’ helped instill the nasty attitude I create when blocking. We would call a pancake a ‘crush block’ and the starting offensive line would battle against each other every week to get the most crush blocks that week. At [S]shepherd, [C]coach McCook, [and] past offensive lineman at [S]shepherd: Hussaim Ouri, Jordan Dixon and Isaiah Shelton[,] taught me a lot about playing on the offensive line. Our defense also helped me get where I am at. They brought their [‘]A[‘] game to practice every day for the [five] years I’ve been here and they tremendously made me better,” Hights said.
Cater also praised Hights’ diverse skill set as a blocker.
“La[v]Vonte Hights was one of the most consistent and gifted offensive linemen in all my years at Shepherd. He was a key ingredient in our offensive production[,] both as a great run and pass blocker. La[v]Vonte just didn’t give up sacks and was equally adept as a left or right tackle” Cater said.
Cornish missed the first three games for the Rams due to injury, but still impressed voters with his tremendous receiving abilities. With his ability to stretch opposing defenses, Corish brought another positive dimension to a deep and talented Rams’ offense. Cornish had the third most receptions (36), receiving yards (561), receiving touchdowns (6), and receiving yards per game (70.13).
Needless to say, Cornish gave opposing defenses and their coordinators many headaches and sleepless nights with his stellar receiving performances against them this season.
Cater explained what makes Cornish different from other tight ends he has coached.
“DJ Cornish has all the gifts that you would want in an intercollegiate [t]Tight [e]End. Good size, can block effectively, has speed and excellent hands. He had amazing success this year and gave us an inside threat to go along with [two]2 very talented wide receivers in Ryan Feiss and Wanya Allen. With [two]2 years to play, he could reach some tremendous milestones,” Cater explained.
These three players all had to be accounted for in opposing teams’ game plans every week because of their diverse and impressive skills, helping them to be named as first team All-Americans.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org