COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (WTVA/EMCC Athletics) – For their respective efforts in helping lead East Mississippi Community College to the school’s fourth national football championship in seven years this past season, sophomores Duke Upshaw and Taylor Crabtree have earned 2017 NJCAA All-America honors. The NJCAA’s Football All-Americans, as chosen by the NJCAA Football Committee, were announced Tuesday.
A defensive back from Baldwyn, Upshaw received first-team honors from the NJCAA, while Crabtree, a product of Vancleave High School, earned honorable mention status as a placekicker. Both players were previously named NJCAA All-Region 23 and MACJC All-State First Team this year after helping lead head coach Buddy Stephens’ 11-1 EMCC Lions to a second straight MACJC state title.
A two-year starter at cornerback for EMCC, Upshaw led the Lions with three pass interceptions during each of his two seasons. Despite missing this year’s state and national championship games due to injury, Upshaw was credited with 39 total tackles and eight pass breakups for the season. Two of his three interceptions on the year came during EMCC’s 72-7 homecoming victory over Coahoma, including a 30-yard pick six, to go along with two pass breakups and a forced fumble. For his East Mississippi career, Upshaw totaled 79 career tackles, six pass interceptions and 13 pass breakups.
Crabtree, who concentrated on placekicking duties as a sophomore after handling all of EMCC’s kicking and punting chores in 2016, finished as the nation’s third-leading scorer among NJCAA kickers for the second year in a row with 97 points scored. He converted on 97 percent (67-of-69) of his point-after-touchdown attempts and 77 percent (10-of-13) of his field goal tries this past year. For his EMCC career, the two-time MACJC All-State kicker connected on 95 percent (131-of-138) of his PATs and 76 percent (19-of-25) of his field goals to score 188 career points for the Lions.
EMCC’s Stephens has now produced a total of 26 NJCAA All-America selections in his 10 seasons on the Scooba campus, while ranking as the Lions’ career wins leader (98-13) as well as the NJCAA’s all-time leader in career winning percentage (.883) among head football coaches with 100 or more career games coached. Among EMCC’s All-Americans dating back to the 2009 football season have been seven quarterbacks, including Florida Atlantic University’s De’Andre Johnson and former Ole Miss signal callers Chad Kelly, Bo Wallace and Randall Mackey, in addition to current NFL defensive linemen Za’Darius Smith (Baltimore Ravens), Denico Autry (Oakland Raiders) and Quinton Dial (Green Bay Packers).