ST. LOUIS, M.O. (GoJacks.com) — Ten South Dakota State University players, led by four-time honoree Christian Rozeboom, were named Monday to the 2019 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Team. Selections were based on a vote by the league’s coaches, sports information directors and a media panel.
A native of Sioux Center, Iowa, Rozeboom was a first-team pick at linebacker for the fourth consecutive year after registering a team-high 101 total tackles, including five tackles for loss and a sack, through the end of the regular season. He recorded double figures in tackles five times, including four games in league play.
A finalist for the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision, Rozeboom also forced three fumbles, recovered a pair of fumbles and intercepted two passes.
Rozeboom, who is the career tackles leader at SDSU with 465, is the second Jackrabbit to be a four-time first-team all-MVFC honoree, matching wide receiver Jake Wieneke, who accomplished the feat from 2014-17.
Joining Rozeboom on the all-MVFC First Team were a pair of offensive players: wide receiver Cade Johnson and running back Pierre Strong, Jr. A junior from Papillion, Nebraska, Johnson posted league bests of 67 receptions and 1,187 receiving yards to repeat on the all-MVFC First Team, while adding eight touchdown catches. Johnson, who is a finalist for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the subdivision, topped 100 receiving yards in a game four times en route to ranking third in the league for all-purpose yardage at 120.3 yards per game.
Strong, a sophomore from Little Rock, Arkansas, crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the second year in a row and wrapped up the regular season with 1,018 yards in 11 games (92.5 ypg). He averaged 7.1 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns.
SDSU’s second-team selections were highlighted by repeat honoree Ryan Earith. A senior defensive end from Papillion, Nebraska, Earith tallied 31 total tackles, including 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Also on the second-team defense for the Jackrabbits was junior cornerback Don Gardner. A Chicago native, Gardner turned both of his takeaways during the regular season into touchdowns, returning an interception 42 yards for a score at Youngstown State and a fumble 24 yards to paydirt versus Northern Iowa. He also contributed 42 tackles, including six tackles for loss and two sacks, and broke up five passes.
On the offensive side of the ball, offensive lineman Matt Clark and fullback Luke Sellers were second-team honorees. Both seniors, the Jackrabbit duo were both key blockers for an offensive unit that averaged and 210.2 rushing yards and 31.3 points per game.
Clark, a native of Syracuse, Nebraska, returned to the lineup after a two-year hiatus and started all 12 games – 10 at center and two at right guard. Sellers, from Papillion, Nebraska, turned his lone reception of the season into an 8-yard touchdown in the regular season finale at South Dakota.
Completing the Jackrabbits’ list of award winners were honorable mention selections Logan Backhaus at linebacker, wide receiver Adam Anderson and Kallan Hart at tight end. Backhaus, a junior from Spirit Lake, Iowa, ended the regular season by leading the team with four interceptions and ranking in a tie for second on the squad in tackles with 73, while forcing a pair of fumbles.
A senior from Orlando, Florida, Anderson recorded 33 catches for 390 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season. Also an honorable mention pick in 2018, he has caught a pass in 25 consecutive games.
Hart, a senior from Lonsdale, Minnesota, has contributed both as a blocker and receiver from the tight end position. He caught six passes for 37 yards during the regular season with two touchdowns.
The MVFC All-Newcomer Team will be announced Tuesday.
SDSU ended the regular season with an 8-4 record, including a 5-3 mark in the MVFC. The Jackrabbits are making their eighth consecutive appearance in the FCS Playoffs and will host league rival Northern Iowa in second-round action Dec. 7. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
(Photo: SDSU Sports Information)