Fort Hays State University senior defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd received All-America First Team honors from the American Football Coaches Association for the 2017 season today. It is the second straight year a defensive lineman from Fort Hays State earned AFCA All-America honors after Sie Doe Jr. earned the distinction in 2016.
Shepherd is the fourth AFCA Division II All-America selection in Fort Hays State’s history. Punter Adam Ryan was the first in 2000, earning first team honors and offensive lineman Tyler Strong was an honorable mention selection in 2003 prior to Doe and Shepherd earning honors the last two seasons. Shepherd has accepted invites to the NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl on January 20 and the Reese’s Senior Bowl on January 27, where he will compete with top collegiate prospects in the nation looking to make the step to professional football.
The AFCA named Shepherd one of the top four defensive linemen in the nation in NCAA Division II. He joins Zach Sieler (Ferris State), Marcus Martin (Slippery Rock), and Blake Nelson (Colorado Mesa) as first-team selections at the position.
Shepherd, like Doe a season ago, earned MIAA Defensive Player of the Year honors. He helped FHSU to its first MIAA Championship as the Tigers posted a spotless 11-0 record in regular season play. Shepherd finished the year with 38 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks, but constantly disrupted offenses by drawing double and triple teams on the line.
In his three years at Fort Hays State, Shepherd amassed 168 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks. He is an All-America selection for the second straight year after earning an honorable mention nod from the Don Hansen Football Committee last year. He is a three-time All-MIAA selection, earning first team this year, second team in 2016, and third team in 2015.
The AFCA’s Division II All-America Selection Committee is made up of three head coaches from each of the AFCA’s seven districts, one of whom serves as a district chairman, along with another head coach who serves as the chairman of the selection committee. The coaches in each district are responsible for ranking the top players in their respective districts prior to a conference call between the district chairmen and the committee chairman on which the teams are chosen.