Sam Houston State senior offensive lineman Travis Watson was named the Southland Conference Football Student-Athlete of the Year, the league office announced Monday in conjunction with the release of the Academic All-Southland Conference football team.
Watson, a two-time all-academic selection, is the first Sam Houston player to be named the Southland football student-athlete of the year. A political science major with a 3.44 grade-point average, Watson was a finalist for the National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Postgraduate Scholarship and was selected as part of the Football Championship Subdivision Athletics Director’s Association Academic All-Star Team.
A native of Norman, Okla., Watson received his second consecutive first-team all-conference honor and played in all 15 games for the Bearkats, who finished 14-1 with the loss coming Saturday in the national championship game. Watson was the starting center for a Bearkat offensive line that blocked for the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense and No. 7 rushing offense. Sam Houston led Southland in rushing, scoring and passing efficiency and was second in total offense. Watson was part of an offensive line gave up only eight sacks in 11 games.
Watson’s selection marks the 12th time since 2007 a Sam Houston State Bearkat has won the league’s “Student-Athlete of the Year” honor for his or her individual sport.
Sam Houston recorded its second-most all-academic selections with a conference-best seven members, while Northwestern State received six all-academic members for the fourth consecutive season.
Joining Watson on the Academic All-Southland squad are quarterback Brian Bell, running back Tim Flanders, wide receiver Brandon Closner, offensive lineman Matt Boyles, defensive lineman E. J. Nduka and defensive back Randy Stewart.
Stewart and Closner, both seniors, earned Academic All-Southland Conference selections for the second year in a row. Stewart, a safety from Magnolia, was a special teams leader for the 2011 Bearkats who has produced a 3.25 overall grade point average as an accounting major. Closner, an Arlington product who completed his career as Sam Houston’s all-time leader in kickoff return yardage, compiled a 3.51 overall GPA as a health major.
Flanders, a sophomore from Midwest City, Oklahoma, earned Southland Conference “Player of the Year” honors after leading the league in rushing with a Southland season record total of 1,644 yards. The management information systems major who holds a 3.00 overall grade point average, holds 12 Sam Houston State offensive school records.
Bell, a sophomore from China Spring, passed for 2,069 yards and 20 touchdowns to earn second team All-Southland Conference honors this fall. Bell holds a 3.26 overall GPA as a kinesiology major.
Boyles, a sophomore from Southlake joined Watson as a starter in the Bearkat offensive line this year, has produced a 3.21 overall GPA as an accounting major.
Nduka, a senior from Jackson, N. J., has produced a 3.15 GPA as a business administration major.
The Southland Conference awards committee, which consists of one administrator from each of the 12 member universities, voted for the student-athlete of the year. The Southland student-athlete of the year award is presented to the one student-athlete who achieves excellence in both academics and athletics. All nominees shall have earned at least a 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and demonstrated athletics achievement for at least two years at the nominating institution.
The All-Academic teams are voted on by the head coaches, sports information directors and academic advisors from each Southland Conference university. Student-athletes must possess a 3.0 cumulative GPA, have completed one full academic year at the nominating institution and participated in at least 50 percent of the team’s competition to qualify for the all-academic squad.