CHARLOTTE, N.C. (EMCC Athletics/WTVA) - For their individual efforts in helping lead the East Mississippi Community College Lions to their fifth NJCAA national championship and seventh MACJC state title during the past decade, six members of EMCC’s most recent unbeaten championship football team have been tabbed as 2018 NJCAA Football All-Americans. First and second teams along with honorable mention selections were made by the NJCAA Football Committee and announced Tuesday by the NJCAA national office headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.
Leading the way for head coach Buddy Stephens’ 2018 EMCC Lions was first-team wide receiver Dontario Drummond, while running back Deon McIntosh, offensive lineman LaQuinston Sharp and defensive lineman Everitt Cunningham were named second-team selections. In addition, EMCC quarterback Messiah deWeaver and return specialist DJ Clayton earned honorable mention recognition.
The half dozen NJCAA All-Americans this year tie for the most in a single season for East Mississippi during the Stephens era, matching the six honorees during the Lions’ 2013 national championship season. EMCC has now produced a total of 32 NJCAA All-Americans during Stephens’ 11 seasons at the Lions football helm, including nine quarterback selections and seven defensive linemen. Former EMCC All-America defensive linemen Denico Autry and Za’Darius Smith are currently starring for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.
Pacing this year’s EMCC honorees, Drummond was tied for third among the NJCAA statistical leaders with 11 touchdown catches along with ranking sixth nationally with 58 receptions and seventh with 857 receiving yards this past season. The Laurel High School product completed his two years on the Scooba campus ranked atop East Mississippi’s career leaderboard during the Stephens era (since 2008) in receptions (95), receiving yards (1,466) and touchdown catches (21).
Making an immediate impact for the Lions following his transfer from Notre Dame, McIntosh finished the 2018 season ranked second nationally with 17 rushing touchdowns as the NJCAA’s second-leading scorer with 102 points. With six 100-yard rushing efforts on the year, the Pompano Beach, Florida native also ranked seventh nationally with 1,150 rushing yards on the year. McIntosh was previously tabbed this year’s MACJC North Division MVP among offensive backs and garnered All-Region 23 honors.
Despite going down with a season-ending injury during Week 4, Sharp was selected this year’s MACJC North Division MVP among offensive linemen and also earned All-Region 23 accolades by a vote of the state’s junior college football coaches. The Columbus native has committed to Mississippi State.
Cunningham headlined the NJCAA’s No. 1 team in scoring defense this past year, as the Lions allowed an average of only 11.2 points per game. The sophomore defensive end from West Point ranked among the nation’s Top 10 leaders in quarterback sacks (13 for 94 yds) and tackles for loss (20.5 for 113 yds) as a two-time MACJC Defensive Player of the Week. Cunningham capped his two-year EMCC career by collecting game MVP honors after scoring the Lions’ only touchdown on an 11-yard fumble return in their 10-9 win over Garden City (KS) Community College during this year’s NJCAA eTeamSponsor Football National Championship played in Pittsburg, Kansas.
In becoming EMCC’s ninth NJCAA All-America quarterback selection during the Stephens era, deWeaver ranked second nationally in pass completion percentage (68.0%) while converting 181-of-266 aerials for 1,735 yards through the air. The Michigan State transfer by way of Dayton, Ohio also had 10 touchdown passes and ran for two others this past season for the 12-0 Lions.
Also earning honorable mention All-America recognition as a fellow All-Region 23 recipient for the Lions, Clayton returned kickoffs and punts in addition to seeing action at wide receiver as a sophomore. The Kemper County High School product averaged 8.5 yards on 22 punt returns, including a touchdown, and 25.3 yards on 15 kickoff returns this past year for EMCC. Clayton also caught 17 passes for 168 yards and a score.
East Mississippi’s six NJCAA All-Americans this year tied Iowa Western for the most in the nation. The 75-player 2018 NJCAA Football All-America Team also featured four members from Garden City (KS), Scottsdale (AZ) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Within the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges, MACJC runner-up Jones College had three NJCAA All-America selections while Copiah-Lincoln, Hinds, Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Mississippi each had one recipient.