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TAMUC – Sports

The No. 5 Lion Football looks for first win over No. 12 ThunderWolves

COMMERCE – The long drought is over. The No. 5 ranked Texas A&M University-Commerce football team takes on No. 12 ranked Colorado State-Pueblo on Thursday night at Neta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl for the 2021 season opener. 

WHO: Texas A&M University-Commerce at Colorado State-Pueblo

WHERE: Pueblo, Colo. | Neta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl

WHEN: Thursday, September 2 at 6:00 pm Mountain Time.

RECORDS: This is the first game of the season for both teams. A&M-Commerce went 11-3 in 2019, falling in the NCAA regional final. Colorado State-Pueblo had a record of 11-2 in 2019, losing in the NCAA regional semifinal. Both teams’ seasons came to an end at the hands of Minnesota State in the 2019 NCAA Division II Playoffs.

 RANKINGS: A&M-Commerce is ranked No. 8 in the AFCA Coaches Poll, 5 in the D2Football.com Media Poll, and 7 in Lindy’s preseason preview. Colorado State-Pueblo is ranked No. 12 in all three rankings.

LIVE AUDIO: Lion Sports Network — KETR 88.9 FM, Commerce (http://www.ketr.org)

LIVE VIDEO: https://rmacnetwork.com/gothunderwolves/

GAME NOTES (PDF) 

ALL-TIME AGAINST THE THUNDERWOLVES

• The Lions look for their first win over the Thunderwolves, who is 2-0 in the series.

• Pueblo downed A&M-Commerce by scores of 24-17 and 23-13 in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

• The Lions are 2-2 all-time against RMAC schools.

• The Thunderwolves have been the lower-ranked team in both prior meetings and are again on Thursday.

• This is the second straight time the teams are meeting in Pueblo. 

A&M-COMMERCE AND MIDWESTERN STATE TO BEGIN TWO-YEAR SERIES AT GLOBE LIFE PARK

• The Lions’ game against Midwestern State on September 11 will be played at Globe Life Park in Arlington, with A&M-Commerce as the home team.

• This will mark the Lions’ first regular season neutral site game since the Lone Star Conference Football Festival in 2014 and the first Division II game played at Globe Life Park. Globe Life Park will be in its second fall season as a football facility.

• “I think it will be an exciting opportunity for the young men on this football team to play at Globe Life Park,” A&M-Commerce head football coach David Bailiff said. “I went to several of the XFL games there last year, and it’s a beautiful venue with incredible amenities. I’m excited about this team and this university to show what we have there.”

• The 2021 game is the first two-game series between A&M-Commerce and Midwestern State at Globe Life Park.

• The 2022 game between the Lions and Mustangs will be played at Globe Life Park on October 8, with Midwestern State as the home team.

• The Lions and Mustangs will be meeting for the 26th time in a hotly contested series, with the Lions holding a 14-11 lead in the all-time series. It will be the first actual neutral site game in the series since 1952. The split game in 2018, which finished at Denton’s Apogee Stadium, was classified as an MSU home game as the game began in Wichita Falls. 

SUCCESS AT ALL MULTIPLE LEVELS

• Based on our research, coach David Bailiff is the fourth-ever coach to qualify for the Division II playoffs, Division I-AA, or FCS playoffs and win a Division I-A or FBS bowl game.

Coach D2 FCS FBS Bowl Wins
David Bailiff 2019
A&M-Commerce
2005
Texas St.
2008 Texas
2012 Armed Forces
2014 Hawai’i
Rice
Terry Bowden 2009-11
North Alabama
1991-92
Samford
1996 Independence^
1997 Peach^
2015 Idaho Potato*
*- Akron
^- Auburn
Willie Fritz 2002
Central Missouri
2011-13
Sam Houston State
2018 Cure
Tulane
Joe Glenn 1990-91, 95-99
Northern Colorado
2000-02
Montana
2004 Las Vegas
Wyoming

LONG TIME COMING
• The Lions play their first game in 636 days against the ThunderWolves. It is the longest drought in program history since World War II.

Seasons Missed Days Between Games
1943-45 (World War II) 1,409
1918 (World War I) 688
2020 (COVID-19 Pandemic) 636

A&M-COMMERCE PICKED TO WIN THE LSC
•The Lions are voted the top team in the preseason poll conducted by the Lone Star Conference.
•A&M-Commerce collected 15 of the 23 first-place votes for 175 points in the preseason poll, 23 points ahead of Angelo State. The Lion’s last appearance at the top of the preseason poll was in 2018, and the Lions’ last LSC title came in 2016. A&M-Commerce is 41-5 in the LSC in the last six seasons and has not lost more than one conference game in a season since 2013.

LONG LIST OF STUDENT-ATHLETES FINDING SECOND HOMES
• There are 31 transfers on the rosters who will make their Lion debut this season. The transfers came to Commerce from all over the country and hail from all levels of college football

College Football Division Number of Transfers
Division I FBS 11 (Five from Power-Five)
Division I FCS 5
Division II 1
NAIA 1
NJCAA 9
CCCAA 4

A&M-COMMERCE TRANSFERS

College Football Division Pos. Previous School
King Ambers DB New Mexico Military Institute
Rehoboth Chibesa OL Cisco College
Chris Dascher TE Florida Tech
Brendan Easley WR Morgan State
D’Angelo Ellis DB Rice
Dominion Ezinwa DL UNLV
Jalen Graves DL UNLV
Celestin Haba DL Scottsdale Community College
Anthony Hayes DL Southwest Mississippi Community College
Darvis Holmes DL Fullerton College
Ben Hutch DL Southeast Missouri State
Jo-Bentley Keilani OL Mt. SAC College
Riley Langton WR Northern Arizona
Kevin Ledee WR Tulane
Jaiave Magalei QB Louisiana
Tyler Malin LB Kentucky
Dontay Mayfield WR Duquesne
Cameron Nellor WR Trinity Valley CC
Michael Noble LB Fullerton College
Jrake Polk DB Navarro College
Cameron Proctor DL Fullerton College
Austin Smith LB Tennessee
Jaelin Smith DL Friends (Kan.)
Kenedy Snell WR TCU
Anthonie Thomas OL Kilgore College
Dante Vandenberg TE Northern Iowa
Brenden Young DB Arkansas
Dee Walker LB Arkansas
Cedrick Wilcox III LB Jacksonville
Justice Williams DL Independence Community College
Stephan Zabie OL Trinity Valley Community College

READY FOR LIFE AFTER FOOTBALL
• Twenty-nine student-athletes have already received their degrees going into the 2021-22 academic year.
• A&M-Commerce and Illinois are tied for most student-athletes with degrees across all levels of college football according to the National Football Foundation.

Emmanuel Adabgdon James Bell Alex Carswell
Matthew Childers Chance Cooper Travis Dafft
Elijah Earls D’Angelo Ellis Dominion Ezinwa
Shane Gosson Carandal Hale Noah Harris
Christian Hernandez Jaylon Hodge Peter Kazibwe
Kader Kohou Antonio Leali’ie’e Wyatt Leath
Darius Leonard-Williams Xavier Morris Solomon Nduwke
Dominique Ramsey Alex Shillow Amon Simon
Austin Smith Jontavis Smith Jake Viquez
Richard West Jemal Williams

NCAA DIVISION II SCHOOLS WITH 10 OR MORE GRADUATES

School Numbers of Degrees
Texas A&M-Commerce 29
New Haven (Conn.) 28
West Alabama 19
Shepherd (W.Va.) 16
Wingate (N.C.) 15
Henderson State (Ark.) 14
North Greenville (S.C.) 14
Slippery Rock (Pa.) 13
Concordia St. Paul (Minn.) 12
Colorado School of Mines 11
Fort Hays (Kan.) 11
Harding (Ark.) 11
West Florida 11
Ashland (Ohio) 10
Ferris State (Mich.) 10

TOP-FIVE SCHOOLS AMONG ALL OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL

School Numbers of Degrees Division
Texas A&M-Commerce 29 NCAA Division II
Illinois 29 NCAA Division I FBS
Baylor (Texas) 28 NCAA Division I FBS
New Haven (Conn.) 28 NCAA Division II
Western Kentucky 27 NCAA Division I FBS

LIONS CONTINUE RANKINGS RUN
• The Lions were ranked No. 11 nationally in the final 2019 American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches Poll.
• A&M-Commerce is ranked No. 5 in the preseason D2Football.Com poll and No. 8 in the 2021 preseason AFCA poll.
• The Lions have been ranked in 66 consecutive AFCA polls, dating back to the 2015 preseason poll.
• The Lions have had 72 all-time appearances in the AFCA poll since its inception in 2000.
• In the polls recognized by Division II as the top rating system, the Lions have been recognized as a nationally ranked team 121 times since joining Division II in 1981.

WE’RE STILL GOING STREAKING!
• By qualifying for their fifth straight NCAA Division II Playoff berth in 2019, the Lions have the third-longest active playoff streak in the nation.
• Only Northwest Missouri State (16 straight) and Ferris State (six straight) have longer active playoff streaks than A&M-Commerce.
• In Lone Star Conference history, only A&M-Kingsville (1992-98, 7 straight) has a streak of more than four appearances. The Javelinas’ 1996-98 appearances were vacated by the action of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
• The Lions have also advanced to the regional semifinal round for four consecutive seasons. 2018 national runner-up Ferris State has reached the regional semifinal five times in a row.

SENIORS SUCCEED OVER CAREER SPAN
• The 2019 senior class claimed sole possession of the school record for wins in a four-year period with 46. Their .845 winning percentage was second-best in school history.
• The 2021 senior class is already on pace to challenge those records with 35 wins and a .833 winning percentage.

Years Record Pct
2016-19 46-9 83.9
2015-18 43-10 81.1
2014-17 42-10 80.8
1951-54 36-5-2 86.0
2017-21* 35-7 83.3
2013-16 35-14 71.4
1957-60 34-7 82.9
1972-75 32-13-1 76.0
1936-39 31-8 79.5
1990-93 31-16-1 65.6

RAMSEY, SIMON, KOHOU NAMED PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS

• Dominique Ramsey and Amon Simon are named Preseason All-Americans by Lindy’s magazine this summer. Ramsey, Simon, and Kader Kohou are named Preseason All-Americans by D2Football.com

• Ramsey earned All-American honors as an all-purpose player, while Simon is honored as an offensive lineman.

• Ramsey and Simon were honored as First Team Preseason All-Americans in Lindy’s Sports before the anticipated 2020 season as well before that season was ultimately canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Kohou earned the first-team all-Lone Star Conference in 2019. 

• Ramsey – a redshirt senior from Converse (Judson) – earned three All-American honors in 2019 and has four postseason All-American awards in his career.

• He was named First Team All-American as an all-purpose player by the Associated Press and Second Team All-American as a return specialist and safety by the Division II Conference Commissioners’ Association (D2CCA).

• The Cliff Harris Award nominee was also named to the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football All-Texas, small college team, and earned First Team All-Super Region Four honors from the Division II Conference Commissioners Association as both a safety and return specialist.

His return prowess has seen teams kick away from him, insomuch as he did not return a kickoff in the last three games of the regular season. • He earned Lone Star Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors twice in 2019, ranking second in the nation in kickoff return average at 37.5 yards per return, second in the LSC, and ninth in the country in punt return average at 14.7 yards per return. He also had 39 tackles, three interceptions, two pass breakups, and two tackles for loss on defense.

• He is also named the Lone Star 

• Simon – a redshirt senior from Humble (Atascocita) – earned Second Team All-American honors from the Associated Press and D2CCA in 2019. He was on Dave Campbell’s Texas Football All-Texas small college team and earned First Team All-Super Region Four honors from the Division II Conference Commissioners Association. In 2019, Simon earned Lone Star Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year and First Team All-LSC honors at offensive tackle. He blocked for an offense that averaged 407.9 yards and 36.1 points per game during the regular season. 

• Kohou- a redshirt senior from Euless (Trinity) – earned first-team all-LSC in 2019, second-team in 2018. In 2019, he recorded 27 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and had three interceptions, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and five pass breakups.

• For his career, Kohou has played in 33 games with 87 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, five interceptions, and 31 passes defended. He’s forced four fumbles and recovered three while returning an interception for a touchdown in each of the last two seasons. 

KOHOU NAMED TO THE PRESEASON STARTING LINEUP

• Kader Kohou – The College Football America Yearbook’s Preseason Starting Lineup named Kohou, a redshirt senior from Euless (Trinity) – earned first-team all-LSC in 2019, second-team in 2018. In 2019, he recorded 27 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and had three interceptions, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and five pass breakups.

• For his career, Kohou has played in 33 games with 87 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, five interceptions, and 31 passes defended. He’s forced four fumbles and recovered three while returning an interception for a touchdown in each of the last two seasons. 

SMALLS, RAMSEY NAMED ON HARLON HILL TROPHY WATCHLIST

• Miklo Smalls and Dominique Ramsey of the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team are preseason contenders for the 2021 Harlon Hill Trophy by Turner Sports’ Wayne Cavadi on NCAA.com.

• The two current Lions look to join former star Luis Perez, who hoisted the trophy in 2017 on the way to leading A&M-Commerce to the 2017 National Championship. 

LIONS SWEEP LSC PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARDS

• Defensive back Dominique Ramsey is named the preseason Lone Star Conference Defensive Player of the Year, while quarterback Miklo Smalls is named the preseason LSC Offensive Player of the Year. 

•Ramsey- a redshirt senior from Converse (Judson), is selected as the conference’s preseason defensive player of the year, adding to a lengthy tally of honors in his career.

• The redshirt senior earned three All-American honors in 2019 and has four postseason All-American awards in his career. He was named First Team All-American as an all-purpose player by the Associated Press and Second Team All-American as a return specialist and safety by the Division II Conference Commissioners’ Association (D2CCA).

• The Cliff Harris Award nominee was also named to the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football All-Texas, small college team, and earned First Team All-Super Region Four honors from the Division II Conference Commissioners Association as both a safety and return specialist. 

• Smalls- Selected senior from Plano (Plano-East) as the league’s preseason offensive player of the year after a phenomenal 2019 season at the quarterback position.

• He was named second-team all-Lone Star Conference and won LSC Offensive Player of the Week honors four times in 2019. Smalls completed 244-of-376 passes for 3,010 yards with 23 touchdowns against eight interceptions while also carrying the ball 124 times for 488 yards and three touchdowns.

• He had six games with multiple touchdowns passes, including five against Midwestern State. In the playoff wins over Tarleton and Colorado School of Mines, he had over 100 yards rushing and 150 yards passing in each contest. 

RIEBOCK NAMED TO DAVE CAMPBELL’S “40 UNDER 40”

• Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Billy Riebock – Named to the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football 40 Under 40 list in the annual publication.

• Riebock is entering his second competitive season and the third year as the Lions’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, helping lead A&M-Commerce to the third round of the NCAA Division II playoffs, the Super Region Four finals, and an 11-3 overall record in 2019.

• In the first season with Riebock as coordinator, the Lions ranked first in the Lone Star Conference, eighth nationally in completion percentage, and third in the LSC in total offense. Offensive lineman Amon Simon – Named two All-American teams, two All-Region teams, and the LSC’s Offensive Lineman of the Year. Guard Deion Malone also earned All-Region and First Team All-LSC honors. Eight offensive players earned All-LSC recognition, representing every position group on the offense. 

ADIBI ELECTED TO VIRGINIA TECH HALL OF GAME

•Defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Xavier Adibi is part of the 2021 class into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

•Adibi is one of many in a long line of great Virginia Tech defensive backs, earning All-America honors and All-ACC recognition during an illustrious career from 2003-07. He became just the second linebacker in program history to earn All-America honors when he accomplished the feat as a senior following the 2007 season.

•Adibi led the Hokies that fall with 115 tackles, including a team-best 12 for a loss. He also added three sacks and two interceptions on his way to earning first-team All-ACC recognition. Behind him, Tech finished near the top of the ACC in virtually every defensive category that season, highlighted by a 30-16 win over No. 12 Boston College in the 2007 ACC championship game.

•A two-time All-ACC pick, Adibi earned second-team distinction in 2006 after finishing second on the team with 82 tackles, including 6.5 for a loss, three sacks, and three interceptions. The Hampton, Va., product started the final 40 games of his career, and he finished his career with 291 tackles, including 30 for a loss and 11 sacks.

•Adibi was a fourth-round draft pick (118th overall) by the Houston Texans in the 2008 NFL Draft. He played five seasons in the NFL – Houston (2008-10), Minnesota (2011), and Tennessee (2012). He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in apparel, housing, and resource management.

•Adibi enters his third year and second entire playing season as the Lions’ defensive coordinator in 2021. Adibi’s defensive unit was one of the best in the Lone Star Conference in 2019, leading the league in sacks per game and finishing in the top two in total defense, passing yards allowed, rushing defense, red zone defense, defensive touchdowns, and tackles for loss. Safety Dominique Ramsey was named a first-team All-American, and the defense earned four all-region and seven all-LSC honors. 

SHILLOW NOMINATED FOR CAMPBELL TROPHY

• Alex Shillow is A&M-Commerce’s nominee for the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy®. He was a semifinalist for the award in 2020.

The NFF Awards Committee selects the class each year, comprised of a nationally recognized group of media, College Football Hall of Famers, and athletics administrators. • Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates for the awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility. They must have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor, and have strong leadership and citizenship. 

• Shillow – a redshirt senior from Pflugerville – becomes the third Lion student-athlete to win multiple CoSIDA Academic All-America awards and the first Lion football player to do so. Andrew Davis (men’s basketball) was a third-team honoree in 2012 and a first-team honoree in 2013, and Jaslyn Wacker (volleyball) was a second-team selection in both 2017 and 2018.

In January 2020, the National Chair of the NCAA Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) selected him for his second term. • Shillow has distinguished himself on the field, in the classroom, and the community during his career at A&M-Commerce. He served as the A&M-Commerce SAAC, won the last three LSC SAAC Cups, and was chosen to reveal multiple Make-A-Wish recipients.

In 2020, he was a national semifinalist for the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy. He was a 2019 and 2020 nominee for the American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team and recipient of the NACDA John McLendon Minority Postgraduate Scholarship. Due to the pandemic, he will likely be eligible for these awards again in the 2021 season.

• Following the 2019 season, Shillow was honored as a CoSIDA Second-Team Academic All-America, the Lone Star Conference’s Fred Jacoby Academic Athlete of the Year, and the Lone Star Conference Academic Player of the Year in football. He graduated summa cum laude with his bachelor’s degree in sports management in August 2019 and his Masters’ of Business Administration in December 2020. He currently continues graduate work in preparation for his final season of eligibility.

• On the field, Shillow has been named Second Team All-LSC in 2019 and 2017 with 159 tackles, four interceptions, 17 passes defended, three fumble recoveries, and 5.5 tackles for loss in 36 games over three seasons.

SHILLOW WAS NAMED FIRST TEAM CoSIDA ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICA, RAMSEY NAMED TO SECOND TEAM

• Two Lions were named to the 2020-21 Academic All-America® Football Team, as Alex Shillow earned first-team honors and Dominique Ramsey earned second-team honors.

• Division II members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) select the Academic All-America teams. Career accomplishments instead of single-season statistics were the basis for the 2020-21 academic year for these honoree’s accomplishments instead of single-season statistics.

• Shillow earns Academic All-America honors for the second consecutive season after earning second-team honors in the 2019 season. It is the first Academic All-America honor for Ramsey.

• The duos are the 17th and 18th CoSIDA Academic All-Americas in A&M-Commerce history, and the football team now has eight honorees in program history. The Lions have had at least one CoSIDA Academic All-America in the last five years, which marks the longest streak in Lion Athletics history. 

• Shillow – a redshirt senior from Pflugerville – becomes the third Lion student-athlete to win multiple CoSIDA Academic All-America awards and the first Lion football player to do so. Andrew Davis (men’s basketball) was a third-team honoree in 2012 and a first-team honoree in 2013, and Jaslyn Wacker (volleyball) was a second-team selection in both 2017 and 2018.

• Shillow has distinguished himself on the field, in the classroom, and the community during his career at A&M-Commerce. In January 2020, they elected him to his second term as the NCAA Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Shillow served as the A&M-Commerce SAAC, won the last three LSC SAAC Cups, and was selected to reveal multiple Make-A-Wish recipients.

In 2020, he was a national semifinalist for the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy. He was a 2019 and 2020 nominee for the American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team and recipient of the NACDA John McLendon Minority Postgraduate Scholarship. Due to the pandemic, he will likely be eligible for these awards again in the 2021 season.

• Following the 2019 season, Shillow was honored as a CoSIDA Second-Team Academic All-America, the Lone Star Conference’s Fred Jacoby Academic Athlete of the Year, and the Lone Star Conference Academic Player of the Year in football. He graduated summa cum laude with his bachelor’s degree in sports management in August 2019 and his Masters’ of Business Administration in December 2020. He currently continues graduate work in preparation for his final season of eligibility.

• On the field, Shillow has been named Second Team All-LSC in 2019 and 2017 with 159 tackles, four interceptions, 17 passes defended, three fumble recoveries, and 5.5 tackles for loss in 36 games over three seasons. 

• Ramsey – a redshirt senior from Converse (Judson) – earned three All-American honors in 2019 and has four postseason All-American awards in his career. He was named First Team All-American as an all-purpose player by the Associated Press and Second Team All-American as a return specialist and safety by the Division II Conference Commissioners’ Association (D2CCA). The Cliff Harris Award nominee was also named to the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football All-Texas, small college team, and earned First Team All-Super Region Four honors from the D2CCA as a safety and return specialist.

They named him to the President’s List once, the Dean’s List four times, and the LSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll five times. He received the National Football Foundation Gridiron Club of Dallas Scholar-Athlete in 2021, as he graduated with his bachelor of science in industrial engineering in May. He was also a 2019 Academic All-LSC selection. 

LEALI’IE’E AND SIMON WERE NAMED TO DAVE CAMPBELL’S TEXAS FOOTBALL PRESEASON ALL-TEXAS SMALL COLLEGE TEAM

• The Lions’ Antonio Leali’ie’e and Amon Simon have been named to the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Preseason All-Texas Small College Team in advance of the 2021 season.

• Dave Campbell’s Texas Football considered all four-year institutions in Division I FBS level for this team, which reflects the 2019 season statistics for the Lions. A&M-Commerce went 11-3 and advanced to the Super Regional finals under head coach David Bailiff in their first season. 

• Simon (Humble – Atascocita) had a spectacular 2019 season, earning second-team All-American honors from the Associated Press and D2CCA. The Lone Star Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year was also named first-team all-region by the D2CCA and earned his second consecutive first-team All-Lone Star Conference honor. Simon has the opportunity to become the first repeat winner of LSC Offensive Lineman of the Year in the non-divisional era since Texas A&M-Kingsville’s Moses Horn did so in 1986 and 1987. A&M-Commerce’s R.J. Brisbon won consecutive awards in 2008 and 2009, but the award split divisionally from 1997-2010. 

• Leali’ie’e (Copperas Cove) was a first-team All-Lone Star Conference pick at running back in 2019, appearing in 10 games with 104 carries for 689 yards and seven touchdowns, for an average of 6.6 yards-per-carry and 68.9 yards per game. He had three games with over 100 yards rushing, including 18 carries for 169 yards against Midwestern State in a game where he also had a receiving touchdown. He had 17 carries for 133 yards, two touchdowns against Western New Mexico, and 13 carries for 141 yards, and a touchdown against Texas A&M-Kingsville. 

SHILLOW WAS NOMINATED FOR THE 2021 ALLSTATE/AFCA GOOD WORKS TEAM

• Shillow (Pflugerville) is one of 42 scholar-athletes from the Combined Divisions (FCS, Division II, Division III, and NAIA) vying for 11 spots on the Good Works Team. Since its inception in 1992, the award shines a spotlight on selfless student-athletes and honors their dedication to volunteerism, community service, and their commitment to enriching the lives of others. While they often recognize players for their accomplishments and achievements on game day, these student-athletes have made significant contributions to the greater good of society, inspiring future generations of young athletes and the larger college football community.

• Shillow was also a nominee for this award in 2019. As an active participant in multiple leadership roles for the Lions’ Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Shillow has led community service and fundraising efforts to raise awareness and funds for the Make A Wish Foundation. Shillow’s student-athlete group raised over $15,000 to grant two “Wish Kids” trips to Walt Disney World, as well as a trip to the NBA All-Star Game for the most recent “Wish Kid” at A&M-Commerce. Through fundraising initiatives and coordinated efforts, Shillow has also driven fundraisers and clothing donation collections to provide underprivileged families in the Commerce community with personalized gifts for Christmas.

• Shillow was also a leader of the Make It Important Campaign in the summer of 2020, which involved a video and an action plan to bring awareness to the social injustices going on in the country in response to the George Floyd murder.

• He led in getting his team registered to vote, along with other sports teams in the department, and initiated a conference-wide voter registration challenge. He sat on the university’s voter coalition committee to help make voter registration and voting more accessible for A&M-Commerce students. Shillow also led a virtual political open forum with two Texas state legislators – Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) and former Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton). It was in front of over 300 student-athletes and guests, moderating an insightful conversation and dialogue between Texas legislators and student-athletes. This initiative won 3rd place for the NCAA Division II Award of Excellence this past year.

• Shillow is also a leader and a part of Athletes In Action – a student-athlete faith-based organization.

• Shillow has also served on the NCAA Division II National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee from 2018-21 and was the national chair of the committee from 2019-21. He led the discussion and changed around mental health, professional development, name image and likeness, and many student-athlete well-being topics, all while being involved heavily in the Commerce community. 

LION FOOTBALL RANKED NO. 4 IN “TOP 20 PROGRAMS THAT INSPIRE”

• The Lion Football program was ranked No. 4 in College Athletic Advisor’s Top 20 Programs That Inspire.

• The program rankings are open to all four-year, collegiate-level programs outside of NCAA Division I and are based on a subjective assessment of student experience in four areas:

-Holistic development of student-athletes in the institution;

-Academic achievement and support for the academic success of student-athletes;

-Overall college experience for participants within the program;

-Affordability/graduation rates/student satisfaction.

• Although College Athletic Advisor’s list is subjective, the organization believes these rankings “present an informed starting point for a discussion about where student-athletes can excel as ‘triple-threat competitors’ (academics, athletics, and socially) in college and their future lives.” 

SMITH EARNS ALL-AMERICAN HONORS IN TRACK

• Jontavis “J.T.” Smith was the Lions’ running back to start the 2019 season but was injured in the Western Oregon game.

• He was prepared to compete in the 2020 season, but the COVID pandemic shut down his chances for that year.

• Smith joined the Lions’ track and field team and claimed three All-American honors and a national championship in the spring of 2021 outdoor season.

•He was the second leg in the Lions’ national championship 4×100 meter relay team that claimed the gold medal with a time of 39.69 seconds.

• Smith finished fifth in the 100-meter dash at 10.42 seconds and 12th in the 200-meter dash at 21.59.

 

Lion Volleyball returns to a full schedule in 2021

COMMERCE – After a season affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas A&M University-Commerce volleyball team returns to a full schedule this fall, starting this week at the Southeastern Classic. 

“It has been really enjoyable to be back in the gym. Having it taken away from us last year really makes us enjoy preseason more,” said A&M-Commerce head coach Craig Case, who enters his 12th season as the coach of the Lions. “At the same time, we’re expected to return to normal, so the expectations return, the standards and history of our program return.” 

RETURN TO NORMALCY

The Lions play a 27-match regular-season schedule and compete for the NCAA Championships, which were canceled a year ago due to the pandemic. Also, returning are fans to the Field House, and Case is excited to have an extra boost on home match nights.  

“Our home crowds are great because they are loud but good volleyball fans at the same time. There is great energy and enthusiasm for our team, but the goal for our fans is not to disrupt the other team, rather just enjoy good volleyball,” said Case.  

You can find the season and individual ticket information at LionAthletics.com/tickets or by calling (903) 468-8756. 

SHORTER OFFSEASON

The Lone Star Conference – like most conferences in NCAA Division II – conducted volleyball season in the spring, thus creating a shorter turnaround time going into the fall. A&M-Commerce’s first match this year is on Sep 2, just over five months since its last game of 2020-21, which came on Mar 24. 

“The short turnaround time is going to be a major factor for everyone. We tried to manage reps a lot in the spring. We have to manage a lot of veteran players who have played a lot of volleyball,” said Case. 

One of the strategies used by Case and his staff this preseason has been to rotate in more younger players during practices. 

“I have noticed a difference physically, but we knew that was going to be the case, so we’re not surprised by it and managed it pretty well in the preseason,” added Case. 

In the shortened season, Lions went 7-7 overall and 6-6 in LSC matches. They had 42.4 attack attempts per set, which were fourth nationally, and 19.8 digs per set, which was 18th. 

A YOUTH MOVEMENT

Between the pandemic and the several freshmen redshirting during the 2019 season, 15 of the 27 players on this year’s roster have freshman eligibility. However, seven of them appeared in a match last spring. 

“We are going to have a youth movement through redshirt freshmen, freshmen from last year, and true freshmen,” said Case. “It is exciting because we have some upperclassmen that would like some load management and some underclassmen that want the opportunity.” 

The Lions do welcome five genuine first-year students to the program this fall. 

“One thing that all of them that they take for granted is that it is really hard to score points at this level, so you have to work really hard. On offense, everybody is good as you, so you have to work harder to score, and defensively, you have to work harder to stop others from scoring,” said Case.  

With most of the team not having much experience at the college level and no scheduled exhibition matches in the preseason against other schools, the first actual test for the Lions this week will be their competitiveness. 

“The chemistry is really good, athletically and positionally we’re good but the question we have to answer is how competitive are we really,” said Case. 

EXPERIENCED DEFENSIVE UNIT

Two of the players who saw the most court time last spring were on defense in Riley Davidson (Commerce) and Lyric Hebert (Arvada, Colo.), who earned all-LSC status. 

“Riley is a machine. She’s in every drill, works harder than everyone else. Anytime we’re scrimmaging, Riley is always the first pick. She’s more consistent than she has ever been. We’re going to rely on our libero to win some matches for us,” said Case.  

Davidson averaged 4.98 digs per set on a reception percentage of .949, and Hebert recorded 4.04 digs per set on a reception percentage of .951. Both players appeared in every set last spring. 

“Between Riley and Lyric, we’ve got two high-level defensive players. There were many times that our best two players on the court were our libero and defensive specialist. That wouldn’t shock me if they carry the team at some point,” said Case.  

Coach Case highlighted Kayla Lucas (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Ashley Pennington (Frisco – Liberty) as two emerging players this preseason. The Lions expect them to provide depth at the defensive specialist position. 

THREE COMPETITIVE SETTERS

Based on the matchup, Coach Case feels comfortable having any of the three setters who have seen the court during their A&M-Commerce careers. 

Natalie Sarbeck (Cy-Fair) has appeared in 40 matches, averaging 5.09 assists per set in her career. Aislynn Shore (Hockley – Frassati Catholic) is averaging 4.89 assists in nine matches in her career, and Celeste Vela (Guadalajara, Mexico) has played in 71 matches over her career, averaging 5.68 assists per set.  

“Positionally, that is the smallest gap we’ve got player to player. We’ve got three competitive setters who all have their own strengths. It is fun as a coach as it provides with some flexibility,” said Case. 

Joining the setter group this fall is true freshman Breann Connally (Coolidge – Groesbeck). 

“It is going to be a unique dynamic within the setters group to see who becomes the player we rely on, but I am comfortable with all of them,” added Case. 

TALENTED PIN HITTERS

Case expects to rotate at least eight players into the outside and right side hitter positions at the start of the season, led by Sydney Andersen (Placentia, Calif.) and Nicki Gonelli (Round Rock – Stony Point). Andersen has been selected as an All-Lone Star Conference in both seasons as a Lion. And Gonelli has played 167 sets in her career. 

Maddy Rashford (Placentia, Calif.), who was named to the all-LSC freshmen team last spring, Essence Allen (Tatum), and Emerson Coburn (Lewisville) are three returners who still have freshman eligibility. “Those three are going to be fun to watch,” said Case.  

Also providing the depth among the outside hitter’s group is Shelbi Sheppard (Emory – Rains), Madison Luther (Sealy), and freshman Reese Fetty (Farmersville). 

“This is the group where we have the most amount of depth of players that can get the job done.” 

EAGER TO LEARN MIDDLE BLOCKERS

The middle blockers group this fall consists of Bella Schmukal (Rockwall – Heritage Christian Academy), Karena Tipton (Midlothian – Heritage), Taryn Cast (Peaster), and Maiya Dickie (Huntsville). Case noted this position group as one that used fall camp to the best of its advantage.  

“As a group, they have been the most fun to work with as they are very eager to learn. Of all the positions on our team, the position most likely to have a breakout season for us is re-establishing ourselves as a team with great middles,” said Case. 

“Everyone in that group has a chance to be all-conference if they continue to do things the way we are asking them to.” 

The first match of the fall comes at Southeastern Oklahoma State on Thursday at 5 p.m. The Lions play three more matches in Durant this weekend in the Southeastern Classic. The first match at the Field House comes on Sep 17 against Eastern New Mexico. 

2021 Lion Football: Dreaming Big

SEASON PREVIEW

COMMERCE – Six hundred and thirty-five days since falling to top-seeded Minnesota State in the 2019 NCAA Division II Playoffs, the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team returns to the gridiron this week at Colorado State-Pueblo. Coach David Bailiff enters his second season of competition at the helm of the football program and has set lofty goals for this year. 

“We have a lot of talented young men, they are working hard, and we are dreaming big,” said Bailiff on the team’s outlook for the 2021 season. 

IT HAS BEEN A WHILE

Outside of the two World Wars, the Lions end the longest drought between games in program history when they take the field against Colorado State-Pueblo on September 2. In the entire last season before the COVID-19 pandemic, A&M-Commerce went 11-3, finishing second in the Lone Star Conference and advancing to the regional final for the second time in three years. 

“It has been a long time coming. This entire football team, athletic trainers, university, president, athletic director, everybody is really excited that we’re finally here after what we all survived a year ago,” said Bailiff. 

FAMILIAR FACES

Despite the long offseason in the middle of a pandemic, the Lions retained every coach from the 2019 season. We nearly have all the underclassmen opted to return. 

“We did not lose a coach. We have had great continuity there. The players know our style, and there have been no surprises there,” said Bailiff. 

A&M-Commerce has 29 student-athletes on the roster who have already received their undergraduate degrees. Many of whom are returning for their fifth or even sixth year. The National Football Foundation says the 29 student-athletes with a degree are tied most on a roster with the University of Illinois this year. That is among all levels of college football. 

“There are not going to be a lot of new names that people have to learn. Everybody elected to return and have formed a special bond with each other,” added Bailiff. 

TALENTED CROP OF NEWCOMERS

Joining the squad this fall are 31 student-athletes who have transferred into A&M-Commerce. Sixteen of them come from the Division I level, including 11 from the Football Bowl Subdivision. Five of the 11 transfers from the FBS hail from Power Five schools. 

“A lot of the transfers have made a difference. Especially in the defensive line, tight end, and quarterback,” said Bailiff. “The majority of the transfers are really going to help this football team.” 

For a first-year student to crack into the 60-person travel squad is challenging in any year and significantly more demanding now. Every student-athlete who was on a roster last year gets another year of eligibility and many transfers coming into the program. 

Among the few freshmen that the Lions expected to see action right-away are wide receiver Orvis Fowler (Houston – Waltrip) and offensive lineman McKenzie Agnello (Copperas Cove). Quarterback Brock Nellor (Mt. Vernon) has made great strides during fall camp and could push to be the signal-caller for the Lions in the future. “He has a live arm and makes great decisions,” said Bailiff. 

“It is one of those years with the sixth-year kids. It is much harder to get on the bus this year as a freshman than any other time,” added Bailiff. 

SEASONED VETERANS

The returning student-athletes for the Lions continued to practice despite no outside competition throughout the 2020-21 academic year and are ready to go against another team. 

“We have not played in two years, but we have trained hard for a year. We had two scrimmages where there was an improvement after each one,” said Bailiff. 

With an experienced roster, the coaching staff created situational awareness with the team and ensured that the Lions are not hurting themselves. 

“Early in the year, you lose more games than you win because you beat yourself by penalties. That is what we have been working on improving,” said Bailiff. 

TOUGH SLATE TO START

The Lions are not backing down from challenging some of the best in Division II to start the season. Two of the first three games come against the top 12 teams in the nation in No. 12 Colorado-State Pueblo and No. 1 West Florida. The intense non-conference schedule is just the appetizer for the Lone Star Conference schedule, perennially regarded as one of the toughest conferences in Division II. 

“We are excited about the schedule, said Bailiff. “We have got to be a veteran team in week one. We do not have an easy game. We need to be a veteran team from the start and not beat ourselves.” 

THE FRONT SEVEN

Coming back in the front seven for the Lions are defensive linemen Elijah Earls (San Antonio – Stevens), Jaylon Hodge (Fort Bend Travis), and Devin Beamon (North Forney), as well as linebacker Xavier Morris (Converse – Judson). The group under defensive coordinator Xavier Adibi recorded 3.38 sacks per game, ranking eighth in the nation in 2019. 

Transfers joining the front seven on defense include Celestin Haba (Columbia, S.C.) from Scottsdale Community College, Anthony Hayes (Panama City, Fla.) from Southwest Mississippi Community College, Darvis Holmes (Hinesville, Ga.) from Fullerton College, Cedrick Wilcox III (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) from Jacksonville, Peter Kazibwe (Colchester, Conn.) from Fullerton College and Austin Smith (Buford, Ga.) from Tennessee. 

“They are all going to be really good players, fast and aggressive,” said Bailiff. “Feel good about our depth there, and the transfers have done exceptionally well for us so far.” 

THE BACK FOUR

The secondary group returning for the Lions includes LSC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Dominique Ramsey (Converse – Judson) as well as Kader Kohou (Euless – Trinity) and Alex Shillow (Pflugerville). Joining the group is transfer D’Angelo Ellis (Cy Ridge) from Rice. 

“We mostly return all the names that everyone is familiar with,” said Bailiff. 

THE UNSUNG HEROES

The Lions enter the season with nine offensive linemen that Bailiff believes are capable of being starters. Reigning LSC Offensive Lineman of the Year, Amon Simon (Humble – Atascocita), leads the group. Also returning along the offensive line are Christian Hernandez (Frisco – Lone Star), Travis Dafft (Prosper), Richard West (San Antonio – East Central). 

The Lions are also expecting big things from transfers Anthonie Thomas (Houston – Madison) from Kilgore College and Stephan Zabie (Austin – Westlake) from Trinity Valley Community College. 

Jo-Bentley Keilani (Tacoma, Wash.), a transfer from Mt. SAC College, and Rehoboth Chibesa (Little Elm), a transfer from Cisco College, also add depth to the offensive line. 

EXPLOSIVE WEAPONS

There are four running backs on the Lions’ travel roster. All four are in their fifth or sixth year in college. The backfield includes Antonio Leali’ie’e (Copperas Cove), Carandal Hale (Greenville), E.J. Thompson (Cy Ranch), and the track All-American J.T. Smith (Klein Oak).  

Among the receiving corps, returners Chance Cooper (Leander – Rouse) and Matt Childers (Henderson) lead a group of talented wide receivers, including transfers Kenedy Snell (Waxahachie) from TCU and Kevin Ledee (Cy Ridge) from Tulane. 

Bailiff anticipates transfers Dante Vandenberg (Mt. Pleasant, Iowa) from Northern Iowa and Chris Dascher (Boca Raton, Fla.) from Florida Tech to be impactful right away. 

THE SIGNAL-CALLER

Going into the season, Jaiave Magalei (Tacoma, Wash.), a transfer from Louisiana, and Eric Rodriguez (Fort Bend Travis) are battling it out for the starting quarterback spot. Lone Star Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Miklo Smalls (Plano – East) is rehabbing a knee injury and expects to return to the team later in the year. 

“We have enough talent around the quarterback, so all we need from the quarterback is just to manage the game, take care of the ball. He doesn’t need to win the game for us. Just use the talent around him,” said Bailiff. 

MR. RELIABLE

Jake Viquez (Rockwall) returns to handle kickoffs and field goals. He went 15 for 21 from field goal attempts and earned second-team all-LSC honors. He averaged 54.9 kickoff yards in 81 attempts. 

“He is a very talented kid. He looks like he has a hand on his foot. We put the ball where we want it. He’s extended his range and has the ability to do all the kicks that Coach (Jack) Welch wants him to do,” said Bailiff. 

BATTLE AMONG THE PUNTERS

Emmanuel Adagbon (Mesquite – Horn) and Mitchell McGarry (Gregory-Portland) battled it out for the punting job throughout fall camp. McGarry is in his first year of college competition. Adagbon appeared in one game as a freshman in 2019. 

“They are battling it out, and we feel comfortable with either of them,” said Bailiff. 

ALL-AMERICAN RETURNER

Ramsey earned All-America status as a returner in 2019, totaling 814 return yards and two touchdowns. 

“The players in our punt team are working their tail off because they know that Dominique can take one back. Most people try not to punt to him, but he still goes there and gets it. He’s an All-American for a reason,” said Bailiff. 

The Lions anticipate Kohou and Ellis to help out in the return game as well. 

“We are very comfortable in our returners.” 

Bailiff and the coaching staff are looking forward to this week’s matchup against Colorado-State Pueblo and get the season started. The kickoff for the game at the ThunderWolves is 6:00 pm. 

“We are extremely pleased where we are as a team right now. Wednesday, we get on a plane to Colorado Springs and bus down to Pueblo, looking forward to it,” concluded Bailiff.

Harlon Hill Trophy Watchlist Names Ramsey and Smalls.

COMMERCE – Quarterback Miklo Smalls (Plano – East) and defensive back Dominique Ramsey (Judson) of the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team is preseason contenders for the 2021 Harlon Hill Trophy by Turner Sports’ Wayne Cavadi on NCAA.com.  

The Harlon Hill Trophy is awarded annually to the top football player in NCAA Division II. The two current Lions look to join former star Luis Perez, who hoisted the trophy in 2017 on the way to leading A&M-Commerce to the 2017 National Championship. 

The duo swept the Lone Star Conference Preseason Player of the Year awards. Smalls was named Offensive Player of the Year, while Ramsey was named Defensive Player of the Year. 

In his first season with the Lions, Smalls finished top-30 in the nation in passing yards (3,010), completion percentage (64.9), passing touchdowns (23), and passing efficiency (148.1) in 2019. He also rushed for 488 yards and scored three rushing touchdowns. 

Ramsey averaged 32.4 yards per kickoff return in 2019, scored two touchdowns on returns, and averaged 12.6 yards per punt return. All three were top-13 in the nation. He gained a total of 814 yards on kickoff returns. Defensively, he had 39 tackles, three interceptions, and two breakups. 

The Lions start the 2021 season in two days at the Colorado State-Pueblo ThunderWolves on Thursday night.