STEPHENVILLE – The postseason accolades continue to pour in for the football program at Tarleton State University as eight Texans were named to the Don Hansen All-Super Region Four team Tuesday afternoon.
The Don Hansen team carries out the legacy of long-time small college football advocate Don Hansen, who passed away at age 75 on Aug. 29, 2010. Hansen, from Brookfield, Ill., started and published Don Hansen’s National Weekly Football Gazette for three decades, selecting NCAA Division II All-America teams for the first time in 1988. Don Hansen’s Football Gazette began selecting Division II All-Region squads in 2003.
Deon Sheppard (OT) was the lone Texan on the First Team Offense while Tyrell Thompson (DT), Jai Edwards (FS), and Devin Hafford (CB) were named to the First Team Defense. Xavier Turner (RB) and Jovan Pruitt (OG) earned second-team honors while Zimari Manning (WR) and Brant Bailey (TE) were named to the third team offense.
Sheppard, who has already made Tarleton history by being named to three different All-America teams, started all 25 games for the Texans over the last two seasons, including all 13 of this season’s historic run to the Super Region 4 finals, the program’s first outright LSC championship, and a school-record 12 wins. Sheppard was also named D2CCA All-Region, the LSC Offensive Lineman of the Year, and All-LSC First Team.
Alongside Sheppard was Pruitt and Bailey on an offensive line that produced one of the most elite offensive units in the country and Tarleton history. Tarleton boasted the No. 5-ranked scoring offense in the country and the No. 3-ranked rushing offense. This produced the most 40-point performances in school history (9) in a season and the first set of teammates to each rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, en route to setting a new school record for single-season rushing yards (4,031). Tarleton also set new single-season records for rushing attempts (690), total offensive plays (977), total offense (6,709), first downs (301), touchdowns (79), and points scored (585).
Turner and Manning each enjoyed stellar seasons in Tarleton’s record-setting offense.
Both players were named All-LSC First Team and Turner was tabbed the LSC Offensive Back of the Year. He rushed for 1,469 yards and 22 touchdowns while Manning caught 44 passes for 947 yards and 12 scores. Turner became the sixth player in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season and tied Derrick Ross’ school record for non-passing touchdowns in a season (22).
Defensively, Tarleton enjoyed one of the greatest statistical turnarounds in program history en route to a school-record 12 wins and the program’s first appearance in the regional finals. The Texans boasted the No. 9-ranked scoring defense and No. 14-ranked rushing defense in the country and allowed just 303.2 total yards per game.
The all-region tandem of defensive backs – Edwards and Hafford – are both All-LSC and D2CCA All-Region First Team award winners, as well as D2CCA All-Americans. Hafford was also the LSC Defensive Back of the Year, a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award, and was ranked No. 26 in the nation in passes defended (18). Hafford had 34 tackles at the cornerback position to go along with four interceptions and 14 breakups. Edwards is second on the team – first among defensive backs – with 88 tackles this season, including 62 solo. The junior had four interceptions and six passes broken up on the season.
Thompson closed the book on his Tarleton career with 46 tackles from the interior of the defensive line last season, including 10.0 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks. Thompson is a two-time All-LSC First Team selection and was a Don Hansen Honorable Mention All-American after his junior season.
The first-team and second-team All-Region selections advance to a national ballot from which the 2018 Don Hansen NCAA Division II All-America team will be selected.