Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University football squad, which reached the NCAA Division II Final Eight for the second consecutive year this fall, had two standouts selected to the 2017 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II All-America Team as announced today by the national coaches organization.
Junior defensive end Zach Sieler (Pinckney) received AFCA All-America First Team recognition with senior cornerback Tavierre Thomas (Detroit) garnering AFCA All-America Second Team kudos. It marks the second consecutive year both have achieved All-America status by at least one source.
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. Beginning this year, the AFCA has started selecting a first and second team and voting is done by member head coaches.
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 team is chosen.
A total of 15 Ferris State players have now been named to the AFCA All-America team a combined 19 times, which is seventh most all-time among NCAA Division II schools. It also marks the fourth year in a row the Bulldogs have had a player on the AFCA All-America team. Two-Time Harlon Hill Trophy winner Jason Vander Laan became the first Bulldog player named to the AFCA squad since former defensive tackle Jake Visser in 2008 by being chosen as the squad's quarterback in both 2014 and 2015 before Sieler received second-team recognition a year ago.
Prior to Vander Laan, Visser's selection in 2008 had marked the sixth consecutive season in which a Bulldog player had achieved AFCA All-America First Team status. Former linebacker Kevin Myers was a two-time honoree in 2003 and 2004 followed by wide receiver Carlton Brewster in 2005, linebacker Mike Klobucher in '06 and Visser in both 2007 and 2008. In addition to Visser, Myers, Klobucher and Brewster, Ferris' impressive list of AFCA All-America picks also includes flanker Clarence Coleman (2001), kicker-punter Doc Proctor (1999), defensive tackle Kelly Chisholm (1996), quarterback Bill Love (1995), tailback Tyree Dye (1994), defensive tackle Ed Philion (1993), outside linebacker Monty Brown (1992), and running back Chuck Evans (1976) in addition to Vander Laan and Sieler.
Sieler and Thomas represented two of the three Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) picks named to one of the two AFCA All-America squads along with Ashland quarterback Travis Tarnowski. FSU was also one of only seven schools in the country with multiple picks on the AFCA All-America squad.
This fall, 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
Ferris State finished the 2017 season with an 11-2 overall record. FSU's 11 wins this season marks the fourth consecutive year in which the Bulldogs have achieved the feat, which represents the first time in school history in which FSU has done so over four-straight years.
This fall, the Bulldogs also made their fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs and reached the national quarterfinal round for the second-straight year after making a D2 National Semifinal appearance last season.