Southeastern Louisiana defensive back Robert Alford was named to The Associated Press’ FCS All-America third team Wednesday.
Alford, a Hammond native, helped the Lions post a 5-6 overall record and a 5-2 mark in the Southland Conference — their best record in league play since they rejoined the Southland in 2005.
Already named a first-team All-Southland selection, a Buchanan Award Watch List finalist and an invitee to the 2013 Senior Bowl, Alford is Southeastern’s 30th All-American in football dating back to 1937 when James Carlin was named an Associated Press Little All-American.
Alford had 39 tackles this season and tied for the Southland Conference lead with four interceptions. He added five tackles for loss and led the Lions with 12 passes defended.
Alford also averaged 14.1 yards as a punt returner during the season, highlighted by a 75-yard return for a touchdown at Lamar — the fourth-longest return in school history.
Taylor Heinicke, the record-setting quarterback from Old Dominion, was named the first-team quarterback after he enjoyed the most prolific passing season in the history of what used to be called Division I-AA. The sophomore from Atlanta passed for 5,076 yards, breaking the record set by the late Steve McNair when he was at Alcorn State in 1994. Heinicke finished with 5,546 yards of total offense, second only to McNair’s 5,799.
“What Taylor did this year from an individual standpoint is nothing short of incredible,” ODU coach Bobby Wilder said Wednesday.
“We build our system around our quarterback and what we feel like are his strengths. To run an offense that suits their needs. As (Heinicke) has gotten comfortable in our system, we’ve become more of a throwing team because of his comfort level.”
The Walter Payton Award goes to the top player in FCS and will be handed out Monday night in Philadelphia.
Heinicke became the starter for ODU’s fledgling football program, which just completed its fourth season and will transition to FBS next year, four games into the 2011 season. The Monarchs relied more on the run last year.
“This (past) offseason I really put an emphasis on knowing the whole playbook,” Heinicke said. “This year we really bought into the Air Raid-type of offense.”
The Monarchs’ fast-paced spread puts a premium on fast decisions and quick, accurate passes. Heinicke also set FCS records for completions (398) and total plays (705). And he ran for 470 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“He understands our philosophy is to find a way to move the chains,” Wilder said. “If you need to run the ball, you run it to get a critical first down and those first downs lead to touchdowns. Protect the ball and find a way to move the chains.”
Heinicke did just that in September against New Hampshire when he passed for a Division I record 730 yards in a 64-61 victory. He threw 79 passes in that game without an interception.
Old Dominion finished 11-2, losing last week to Georgia Southern, 49-35, in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
Breitenstein made his second straight appearance as a first-team All-American. The 230-pound senior fullback ran for 2,035 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.
Maysonet ran for 1,964 and 21 touchdowns for the Seawolves.
Murray State quarterback Casey Brockman was picked to the second-team. Colgate quarterback Gavin McCarney made the third team.
Eastern Illinois’ Erik Lora and Elon’s Aaron Mellette, ranked 1-2 in the nation in catches and yards receiving, were the receivers and Harvard’s Kyle Juszczyk was the tight end.
A couple of guys who will be playing in this weekend’s FCS semifinals highlight the offensive line.
Billy Turner and North Dakota State host Georgia Southern on Friday night and Will Post and Eastern Washington host Sam Houston State on Saturday.
The other linemen were Earl Watford from James Madison, Mike Sellers from The Citadel and Roger Gaines from Tennessee State.
The defense is led by Georgia Southern’s 300-pound defensive tackle Brent Russell and Georgetown linebacker Robert McCabe, who leads the nation with 14.45 tackles per game.
Brandon Thurmond of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the nation’s leader with 171/2 sacks, joined Russell on the line along with Colton Underwood of Illinois State.
Montana State placed two players on the defense. End Caleb Schreibeis leads FCS with eight forced fumbles and linebacker Cody Owens was the Big Sky defensive player of the year.
New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans, who was a second-team All-American last year, made the first team this year.
Defensive back Marcus Williams of North Dakota State joined Breitenstein as a two-time All-American and became the only defensive player to repeat this season.
North Dakota State and Montana State were the only teams to place two players on the first team.
The other defensive backs were Darnell Taylor of Sam Houston State, Jaquiski Tartt of Samford and Cooper Taylor of Richmond.
Walter Powell of Murray State was the all-purpose player. He had 1,213 yards receiving and more than 900 yards returning kicks and punts.
Patrick Murray of Fordham was the kicker and Sam Martin of Appalachian State was the punter.