Five South Dakota State football players were named Thursday to the HERO Sports 2019 FCS Preseason All-America Teams.
Three Jackrabbits earned first-team honors, including a pair of playmakers on offense in wide receiver Cade Johnson and running back Pierre Strong, Jr.
Johnson, a junior from Papillion, Nebraska, set an SDSU and Missouri Valley Football Conference single-season record with 17 touchdown receptions in 2018 en route to receiving All-America accolades from both HERO Sports (second team) and STATS (third team). He also led the team with 67 receptions and 1,332 receiving yards in topping the 100-yard mark in six games.
Strong burst onto the scene in the second half of the 2018 season, earning Missouri Valley Newcomer of the Year honors after rushing for team highs of 1,116 yards and 11 touchdowns. The sophomore from Little Rock, Arkansas, needed only 100 carries to reach the 1,000-yard plateau and ended up averaging 9.5 yards per carry for the season as he posted 100-plus yards in five of the team’s final six games.
On defense, senior linebacker Christian Rozeboom also was a first-team selection. The Sioux Center, Iowa, native posted his third consecutive 100-tackle season with a team-best 105 stops in 2018. He also recorded a team-best 10.5 tackles for loss, adding three forced fumbles and two interceptions while receiving third-team All-America recognition from both HERO Sports and Phil Steele.
Both of the Jackrabbits’ second-team honorees are members of the special teams unit – senior kicker Chase Vinatieri and junior long snapper Bradey Sorenson.
A Sioux Falls native, Vinatieri led the Jackrabbits in scoring last season with 114 points, connecting on a single-season school-record 66 extra points and making 14-of-21 field goal attempts with a long of 57 yards to tie an SDSU record. With 306 career points, Vinatieri enters his senior season only 16 points away from establishing a new Jackrabbit career record for points by a kicker (currently 321 by Parker Douglass from 2004-07).
Sorenson has been at the forefront of the Jackrabbits’ special teams success the past two seasons with a perfect rating on his long snaps. The Yankton native was a third-team All-America honoree by HERO Sports in 2018.
In addition, South Dakota State is ranked fifth in HERO Sports’ Preseason FCS Top 25.
The Jackrabbits, who completed last season with a 10-3 overall record and made their seventh consecutive appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, will open the 2019 campaign Aug. 29 at Minnesota. SDSU advanced to the semifinals the past two seasons.
The MVFC placed 16 student-athletes on the HERO Sports Preseason All-America Team, including six on the first-team unit.