After learning he’d been named to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA)/NAIA All-America First Team, Demarco Prewitt (JR/Menifee, Calif.)’s immediately placed a call another All-American.
“The first thing I had to do was definitely call my mom (Cynthia),” said Prewitt, Kansas Wesleyan’s dynamic junior tailback. “She was overjoyed.”
“That’s the main thing about football, I really want to make mom proud. She’s a very hard worker and it’s only right that I put in the same effort and hard work on the football field that she does. She deserves the award more than me because she’s my All-American.”
Prewitt was joined on the AFCA/NAIA list by teammate Shaq Bradford (JR/San Diego, Calif.), a junior defensive end, who earned Second Team honors.
Four Coyotes also were named to the Associated Press’ Small College All-America Team First Team – Prewitt, Bradford, junior left tackle Eli Smith (JR/Severy, Kan.) and sophomore tight end Charlie Simmons (SO/Saint Johns, Fla.).
Wesleyan compiled a school-best 13-1 record this fall, including a 10-0 slate in the Kansas Conference, won its first two NAIA playoffs games – the first postseason wins in school history – and became the first KCAC team to advance to the semifinals.
The Coyotes were fourth in the final NAIA coaches poll released earlier this week.
“The AFCA team, they only allow you to get two on and only one per team,” fifth-year coach Matt Drinkall said. “The AP, I think, is more reflective of our season success with four guys on first team.”
Drinkall said the All-America awards are reflective of the team’s success.
“I know it’s a coaching cliché, but it’s a team award,” he said. “It’s impossible to have success as an individual without all the other people putting you in position to do that.”
Prewitt led the NAIA in rushing yards with 2,371 and rushing touchdowns with 38. He also led the nation in scoring with 41 total touchdowns.
Prewitt played fullback his sophomore season and said the experience paid dividends this fall.
“The physicality got me ready for this year. I wasn’t expecting to take like 30, 40 carries a game,” he said. “You’ve got to be a mean dude to be a fullback because you’re going against d-ends, you’re going against linebackers. Going against (former KWU defensive end Kre’tien) Webb last year, that was not easy. That really prepared me.”
As he did throughout the season, Prewitt credited the offensive line for allowing him to break loose.
“They’re all amazing, great dudes,” he said. “They’re so unselfish because they don’t care. They tell me every game ‘we’re going to get you to 200 (yards), you’re going to break a record today, every game.’ I just care about the win, not all that stuff, but they take pride in it.”
The Coyotes’ offensive balance also was a key factor. Junior quarterback Johnny Feauto (JR/Boulder, Colo.) threw for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns, preventing teams from crowding the line of scrimmage in an attempt to slow Prewitt.
“It was like ‘alright, you guys want to stack the box, we’ll throw it to Trent (Poe-Evans), Charlie, Tim Arno (JR/Canton, Idaho),” Prewitt said. “If you go back into coverage we’ll run all day. It was like ‘what are you going to do, pick your poison.’ ”
Bradford, who stands 5-feet-10 and weighs 219 pounds, was virtually unstoppable with his hiccup-quick initial burst and relentless pursuit.
Bradford lost nearly 80 pounds to get ready for the season.
“My body has completely changed from me being 300 pounds to about 220,” he said. “And just the way the system is has made me feel like a completely different person.
“I compare us to the (Golden State) Warriors or (New England) Patriots because we’ve got so much talent and you don’t see us arguing on the sidelines. You know you’re going to put everything out on the field.”
Bradford was so driven that he routinely headed for the weight room for a workout session after playing a game.
“A lot of people were like ‘I’m not doing that after a game,'” he said. “After every game I would go work out and get all the lactic acid out of my body. You’ve got to do things people aren’t doing and that’s thing I pride myself on doing after each game.
“At the end of the day I want to be the best version of myself for this team, so you’ve got to do things and sacrifice.”
The 6-8 Smith, who initially came to KWU to play basketball, anchored the line on an offense that averaged 48 points and 495 yards. Simmons caught 57 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first season as a tight end after playing wide receiver his freshman year.
“The thing I can say about Shaq and Prewitt is that they practice as hard as they play a game and they show up every single day and they’re just as consistent as you can possibly be,” Drinkall said. “They handle themselves like professionals at all times.
“Eli Smith is in the same boat. He’s shown up here and done everything perfect for the duration of his career.
“Charlie is really good in the run game, he’s really good blocking on the perimeter and down field … Charlie’s the only kid in our program that every other team wishes they had.”
Drinkall marvels at the Coyotes’ historic offensive production.
“The crazy part is it’s hard for a college offense to ever have a 2,000-yard rusher or ever have a 3,000-yard passer and 40 touchdowns,” he said. “To do them both in the same season – you’d have to look up the last time it was done.”
Drinkall says 2018’s success was not a fluke, but there’s work to be done.
“There’s no doubt we’re among the best, but we still have that next hurdle to get over where we’re playing in those (championship) games,” he said. “When you talk about elite teams there are two kinds that play in those games – those that play and those that win.
“If you look at our game against Benedictine, we made too many errors to win. When you look at their game against Morningside (in the NAIA championship) they made the one error at the end that prevented them from winning.”
The postseason run gave Wesleyan players and coaches first-hand experience and knowledge of what it takes to win a national title.
“I think it was really good exposure for our guys to get in a situation like that – not only the game, but the wear of the season,” Drinkall said. “That’s a long, long, long season. We played football an extra month past everybody else.
“It was a great experience that hopefully will load us up to continue to well again next year.”