FRISCO, Texas – 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 all-academic 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.
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. McNeese State had four selections, Central Arkansas had three and Stephen F. Austin and Nicholls state each had two.
There were 13 automatic selections on the Southland all-academic team. To be an automatic selection, a student-athlete must be selected first-team All-Southland Conference, CoSIDA Academic All-District or named to the FCS Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Star Team.
The Southland had eight CoSIDA all-district selections, led by Northwestern State with three. Senior tight end Justin Aldredge and senior linebacker Yaser Elqutub went on to receive Academic All-America honors and were joined on the all-district team by sophomore offensive lineman John McLendon. Central Arkansas and McNeese State each had two CoSIDA all-district members. Junior running back Anthony Blackmon and senior offensive lineman Brad Jakel represented the Bears while junior defensive lineman Eric LeBlanc and graduate punter Ben Bourgeois were the Cowboys’ selections. Additionally, Elqutub was one of 16 recipients of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Award, earning an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.
Northwestern State was one of the 11 FCS universities with the maximum allowable two honorees who made the FCS ADA Academic All-Star Team. Demons Aldredge and Elqutub were joined on the team by Watson, Bourgeois and Stephen F. Austin junior punter Drew Nelson. Aldredge and Elqutub are two of the 12 finalist for the 11th Annual FCS ADA postgraduate scholarship. Two student-athletes will be selected to receive the $5,000 postgraduate scholarship the weekend of June 25-28.
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.