Cullowhee, N.C. - More postseason accolades were bestowed upon Western Carolina football student-athletes on Wednesday as two players landed on the 2017 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Coaches’ All-America Teams. Senior running back Detrez Newsome collected his fifth postseason All-America honor following the 2017 season with a first team selection as an all-purpose back, while junior defensive back Marvin Tillman was honored for the first time in his collegiate career, receiving a second team nod.
WCU’s two selections mark the first time that Western Carolina has landed more than one player on the postseason AFCA All-America squad. Newsome is the first Catamount to collect multiple selections, earning his way onto the coaches’ squad in back-to-back seasons. He is one of nine players that also earned All-America plaudits in 2016.
Newsome adds the coaches’ selection to a litany of postseason honors that began with a first-team All-Southern Conference selection. The Raeford, N.C., native has also collected second team All-America plaudits from STATS FCS, College Sports Madness, and twice honored by Phil Steele as a second team running back and specialist as an all-purpose back. Newsome was also tabbed third team running back by the Associated Press.
Last fall, Newsome was a three-time postseason All-America selection including first team honors from the AP and AFCA, with a second-team nod from STATS FCS.
Despite missing three games due to injury during the 2017 season, Newsome still became the first Catamount running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for a third-straight season. He amassed 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground this season, finishing his career with 3,728 yards and 37 rushing TDs – both second all-time in the Catamount career record books. Newsome finished his career as WCU’s all-time leader in touchdowns scored with 46, adding seven receiving TDs and two kickoff returns for scores.
Newsome’s seasonal rushing average of 122.2 yards per game led the SoCon, while his 1,100 yards left him among the national top 10 at the close of the regular season despite at least one fewer game played than those ahead of him on the list. As an all-purpose back, Newsome paced the NCAA FCS for a second-straight season, averaging 170.67 all-purpose yards per game.
Like Newsome, Tillman was a unanimous first team All-Southern Conference selection after the 2017 season, collecting honors from both the league’s head coaches and voting media. It was the second-time he was honored by the league, also earning all-freshman recognition back in 2015.
Tillman finished 2017 with a career-high 96 tackles through 10 games played, finishing third in the SoCon in the regular season with an average of 9.6 tackles per game. He posted 53 solo stops to rank second on the WCU squad with three tackles for loss from his safety position. A native of Durham, N.C., Tillman led the SoCon with five interceptions, tied atop the heap in the league – the most by a Catamount since 2014 that gives him six picks through his first three seasons.
With 31 games played, Tillman enters his senior season in 2018 with 203 career tackles including 110 solo stops.
Combined, three Catamounts have received postseason All-America honors following the 2017 season as redshirt junior punter Ian Berryman was additionally honored three times including second team AP All-America, second team by Phil Steele, and again by College Sports Madness (collegesportsmadness.com).
The AFCA has selected an All-America team since 1945 and currently selects teams in all five of its divisions. 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.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference landed eight players between the first and second teams, followed closely by both the Southern and Southland Conferences with six. Newsome and Tillman were joined by other conference including Furman OL Matthew Schmidt and Samford DL Ahmad Gooden on the first team, while Samford tandem of WR Kelvin McKnight and QB Devlin Hodges rounded out the league’s honorees with second team nods.
This year’s AFCA FCS Coaches’ All-America Team is made up of 31 seniors, 13 juniors, three sophomores, two freshman and one graduate student.
Western Carolina's All-Time AFCA All-America Selections:
1973 -- Mark Ferguson, OL
1974 -- Jerry Gaines, WR
1984 -- Louis Cooper, DE
1985 -- Clyde Simmons, DE
1993 -- Kerry Hayes, WR
1998 -- Eric Johnson, DB
2016 -- Detrez Newsome, AP
2017 – Detrez Newsome, AP; Marvin Tillman, DB