SCOOBA – The 15th-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College put the finishing touches on their successful 8-2 football campaign by placing four players on the 2012 NJCAA Football All-America Team, as announced Wednesday by the NJCAA’s national office headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Headlined by sophomore free safety Justin Cox receiving first-team defensive honors, defensive end Za’Darius Smith earned second-team laurels while strong safety Shaquille Fluker was an honorable mention selection. Offensively, second-year freshman quarterback Quez Johnson also garnered honorable mention recognition.
Cox, a former standout at West Point High School, tied for eighth among the NJCAA statistical leaders with a team-high six interceptions and was credited with a club-most 10 pass breakups this past season for the EMCC Lions. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound defensive back also tied for second among the team leaders with 52 total tackles on the year. The Mississippi State University commit completed his two-year EMCC career with 11 pass interceptions, 119 total tackles and 19 pass breakups. Cox was previously tabbed the 2012 MACJC North Division Defensive Back Most Valuable Player and an NJCAA All-Region 23 honoree.
Smith, out of Greenville High School in Alabama, ranked as the Lions’ leading tackler among defensive linemen this past season with 47 total stops, including 30 solo tackles and a team-best 6.5 sacks. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound defensive end was also credited with four forced fumbles, two pass breakups and an interception on the year. Ranked by JCGridiron.com as the nation’s top-rated junior college strong-side defensive end, Smith finished his two-year stint in Scooba with 66 total tackles, including 45 solo stops, 11 sacks and seven other tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Fluker, from Meridian High School, was also a vital member of East Mississippi’s defensive unit that helped lead head coach Buddy Stephens’ Lions to a two-year composite record of 20-2, including the school’s first-ever NJCAA National Championship and second MACJC State Championship in a three-year span during the 2011 campaign. This past season, the University of Georgia commit tied for 14th nationally with five interceptions along with being credited with 34 total tackles and four pass breakups. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defensive back totaled 106 tackles, seven interceptions and 12 pass breakups in his two years with the Lions.
Perhaps EMCC’s most decorated player this past football season, Johnson’s honorable mention status extends the Lions’ streak of having All-America quarterbacks to five consecutive years. In addition, Johnson’s 2012 selection gives EMCC the distinction of touting the NJCAA Region 23 Offensive Back MVP four times in the past five seasons. Previously, former Lion signal-callers and current Ole Miss starters Bo Wallace (2011) and Randall Mackey (2008 & 2009) collected regional offensive honors while starring for EMCC. This season also marked the fifth straight year that East Mississippi boasted the MACJC North Division Offensive Back MVP, which includes 2010 honoree and two-year Northwestern State (La.) University starting quarterback Brad Henderson.
Johnson, a former product of Starkville High School, ranked among the top five nationally with an average of 284.6 passing yards per game and 27 touchdown passes. A two-time NJCAA Offensive Player of the Week recipient, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Johnson completed 59.3 percent (227-of-383) of his passes for 2,846 yards on the year. The Florida Atlantic University commit also ranked as the Lions’ second-leading rusher this season with 540 yards on the ground and a team-most 12 rushing touchdowns.
Under Stephens’ five-year guidance, the East Mississippi Lions have now claimed 13 NJCAA All-America football selections spanning back to the 2008 season. A year ago during EMCC’s NJCAA National Championship season, Wallace capped his record-setting campaign for the Lions by being named the 2011 NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year. In addition, former Lion defensive stalwart and current Mississippi State defensive end Denico Autry was also chosen to the 2011 NJCAA Football All-America First Team.
Among this year’s 75 NJCAA Football All-Americans, only 2012 NJCAA National Champion Iowa Western Community College and third-ranked Snow College featured more All-America selections this season than East Mississippi Community College.
The 75 student-athletes awarded NJCAA All-America football honors this season were nominated by their respective conferences and then selected by the NJCAA football committee.