YUMA, Ariz. – The awards keep piling up for the Arizona Western College football team. On top of making the NJCAA National Championship Game, winning the WSFL, tying a team record with 11 wins and finishing as the #3 team in the nation, the Mats had five NJCAA All-Americans. Patrick Macon, Greg Bell III and Desmond Bland were named First Team All-Americans. Keisean Nixon was named a Second Team All-American, and Craig Evans was named an Honorable Mention All-American.
Macon was one of the top linebackers in the nation during his sophomore season. The Oklahoma State signee led the nation with nine force fumbles and 27.5 tackles for loss. He also finished with 122 tackles (11.1 per game) and nine sacks. After the regular season, he was named the Western States Football League Co-Defensive Player of the Year for leading the nation’s second ranked defense. The 6’2, 225-pound linebacker was named to both the All-WSFL and All-ACCAC First Teams. He was also named the WSFL Defensive Player of the Week four times during the year.
Bell finished the season as the leading rusher in the WSFL and gained 1187 yards. The freshman got stronger as the season went on and averaged better than five yards per carry in eight of his final 10 games. He averaged 107.9 rushing yards per game as the Matadors boasted the sixth-ranked rushing offense (242.1 yards per game). He consistently found holes and was a threat to rip off a big gain any time he touched the ball. At the end of the year, he was named to the All-WSFL and All-ACCAC First Teams.
Bland, a freshman left tackle, anchored the left side of the Matador offensive line all season. He helped the Matadors churn out more than 2900 rushing yards and 34 rushing touchdowns. He paved the way for Bell and Trey Rodriguez (85.8 rushing yards per game) to lead the WSFL in rushing yards per contest. Plus, he helped give quarterback Emanuel Gant time to throw when the Matadors ran play-action. Bland was named to the All-WSFL and All-ACCAC First Teams after the season.
Nixon was a lockdown corner for the Matadors throughout the year. He tied for fourth in the nation with six interceptions and returned two for touchdowns. Plus, he broke up five passes and blocked a kick. The South Carolina commit also supported the front seven with 30 tackles, three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He also was named to the All-WSFL and All-ACCAC First Team after the season, and he was the NJCAA Special Teams Player of the Week after returning two kickoffs for touchdowns against Mesa.
At defensive tackle, Craig Evans was a force of nature inside for Arizona Western. He finished fourth on the team with 58 total tackles while also adding in 18.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. The 6’4, 315-pound redshirt-sophomore also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, picked off a pass and blocked a kick. The Oregon State signee was also named to the All-WSFL and All-ACCAC First Teams at the end of the season.
The Matadors have 13 players who have already committed or signed as mid-year transfers to four-year schools next season. The team made it to the NJCAA National Championship for the second time under head coach Tom Minnick.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma. AWC leads the state in enrollment growth over the past 10 years and handed out more than 2,400 certificates and degrees in 2015-16.