DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. --- Five Tusculum football student-athletes have been selected to play in the 2017 National Bowl this Sunday (Dec. 10) at the Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium. Five members of the TC coaching staff will serve as coaches during the all-star game.
The National Bowl is an annual post-season college football all-star game consisting of top players from Non-Division I schools. Celebrating its eighth year, the National Bowl showcases All-American and All Conference seniors from around the nation that travel to the game from over 30 states representing over 400+ NCAA Division II, III, and NAIA schools.
Joining the American Team on defense are Tusculum linebackers L'Keith Brown and Matt Simon, while offensive lineman Malik Brewer will be making the trip to Daytona Beach. All-Region punter Hunter Cantrell was also selected along with All-South Atlantic Conference long-snapper Ian O'Grady.
Tusculum associate head coach and offensive coordinator Brian Ferguson will serve as the American Team's head coach in Sunday's all-star game. Joining him from the Tusculum coaching staff will be JJ Laster, Mike Klein, Brandon Jackson and Chuck Bell.
Brown, a native of Athens, Georgia, recorded double-digit tackles in three of his last four games and has accounted for a tackle for loss in eight of his 10 outings this season. He finished his senior campaign with 88 tackles and his 8.8 tackles per game average is the second-highest in the league. Brown led the conference with his three forced fumbles, which are 21st in the country. For 2017, he tallied nine tackles for loss and two interceptions while earning All-SAC second team honors.
In his final collegiate game, he recorded 10 tackles and an interception in Tusculum's 25-17 upset win over 12th-ranked Wingate in the season finale. He was named the College Football Defensive Player of the Week by the Tennessee Sportswriters Association (TSWA) for the second time on the season and third time in his career.
Brown ends his collegiate career with 336 tackles, which are the third-most in Tusculum history. His 38 career tackles for loss are seventh in the TC record book, while his eight forced fumbles are third and his three fumble recoveries are eighth in school history. In 2014, he was tabbed the SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year.
Simon finished fifth on the team with his 48 tackles this season, including six for loss of 11 yards. The Lithonia, Georgia native added five passes defended, including four break-ups and an interception in her returned for a 29-yard touchdown against Limestone. In that contest, he also returned a fumble for a 20-yard TD becoming the first player in program history to return a fumble and an interception for a score in the same game. For his efforts, he was named the SAC Defensive Player of the Week.
During his 39-game career, Simon has accounted for 138 tackles with 16 of those for loss. He forced two fumbles and his three career fumble recoveries are tied for the eighth-most in TC history.
Brewer, a 6-3, 311-pounder from Chattanooga, Tennessee, has appeared in 30 games in his collegiate career, including five times in his senior campaign on the Tusculum offensive line. He played his first two years on the TC defensive front where he was credited with 36 tackles, including two for loss, one sack and a fumble recovery.
Cantrell, a product of Sparta, Tennessee, finished the season with a 41.64 punting average, which was second in the South Atlantic Conference and 14th-best in the country. His average this year was also the fifth highest in a TC single-season. Of his 56 punts, 26 were pinned inside the 20-yard line, the most of any punter in the conference. He recorded a six punts over 50 yards, including a season-long 56-yarder at Limestone.
The 2017 All-SAC first team honoree posted a season-best 45.5 yards per punt at Limestone. In TC's 31-30 double-overtime win at Newberry, Cantrell averaged 43.1 yards on his eight punts with all eight of his kicks inside the 20-yard line. He was named D2Football.com National Special Teams Player of the Week and the SAC Special Teams Player of the Week.
He leaves Tusculum as its all-time leader with 241 punts and 9,504 punting yards and is fourth with his 39.44 career punting average. His 63 career punts inside the 20-yard line are the second-most in school history, just six shy of the all-time mark held by former TC All-American John Gregory from 2006-2009.
O'Grady, a senior from Orlando, Florida, has shined as Tusculum starting long-snapper for the past four seasons. The 2017 All-SAC first team long-snapper started in all 10 games this season, handling all of the snapping duties on special teams.
The National Bowl is the elite and only current post-season all-star game to focus on players from non-Division I programs that get the opportunity to play in front of NFL and CFL scouts. The National Bowl is presented by SPIRAL / East Preps LLC and founded by owner Michael Quartey Esq., also a former NFL agent and All-American football player.
The Pioneers finished the season with a 5-5 overall record, including 3-4 in league play to finish fourth in the conference, the team's second straight top-tier finish in the SAC. TC also posts its first non-losing campaign since 2014.