Matt Brown was one of eight Redbirds to earn All-conference honors. (Photo By B Corbin/WJBC)
By WJBC Staff
ST. LOUIS – Led by 2012 Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year Matt Brown, a school-record eight Illinois State football players were named All-MVFC First-Team selections Monday by the conference office.
Brown picked up All-MVFC First-Team honors for the first time in his illustrious career and was joined on the first team by senior wide receiver Tyrone Walker, senior offensive lineman Pete Cary, and junior fullback Jordan Neukirch.
Four Redbird defenders also earned All-MVFC First-Team honors for the first time in their careers. Junior defensive end Colton Underwood, senior middle linebacker Mike Zimmer, senior free safety Ben Ericksen and junior defensive tackle Shelby Harris rounded out the record-number of Redbird first-team honorees.
Senior defensive end Nate Palmer was also recognized for his stellar season by being named to the All-MVFC Second Team. A trio of Redbirds was also named honorable mention selections in the annual vote, including senior outside linebacker Evan Frierson, senior running back Darrelynn Dunn and sophomore cornerback Mike Banks.
Brown earned the conference’s top offensive honor and led the MVFC in passing yards (2,676), passing yards per game (243.3) and total offense yards (2,789) this season.
Walker led the Redbirds and the conference in receptions (71), receiving yards (995), receiving yards per game (90.5) and touchdown catches (6), while averaging 14 yards per catch. One of four team captains, Cary started all 11 games at center for the Redbirds during the regular season and graded out at over 85 percent all season. Rounding out the offensive first-team selections was Neukirch, who was an All-MVFC Second-Team pick in 2011. Neukirch was the primary lead blocker for Dunn, but also got involved in the passing game for the Redbirds. The Algonquin, Ill., native caught four passes for 27 yards, including a touchdown each against Western Illinois and No. 1 North Dakota State.
Underwood picked up the first-team honors for the first time in his career. The 2012 Buck Buchanan Award nominee leads the MVFC in sacks (9.5) and tackles-for-loss (18.0) and ranks No. 9 in the country in sacks and No. 7 in tackles-for-loss. Also on defense, Zimmer led team with 109 tackles, including 50 solo stops, and tied for fourth in the MVFC with those 109 tackles in his first season playing middle linebacker.
In his final season with the Redbirds, Ericksen started all 11 games at free safety and he currently leads the country with seven interceptions. He has tallied 48 tackles, one sack and 3.5 tackles-for-loss and has also added a pass break up and a quarterback hurry. Rounding out the first-team selections was Harris, who ranked third on the team and fifth in the MVFC with 12.5 tackles-for-loss.
Palmer was the team’s lone second-team selection, after he ranked second on the team and was fourth in the MVFC with 13 tackles-for-loss.