The Sam Houston State Bearkats placed seven players on the preseason all-Southland Conference team, the league office announced in Thursday.
Wide receivers Davion Davis and Nathan Stewart, along with offensive linemen Mitchell Watanabe, Eric David and Tristan Wendt were all named to the first team while defensive lineman Chris Stewart and defensive back Zyon McCollum were each named to the second team.
The announcement comes in advance of the upcoming Southland Conference Football Media Day, which is set for Thursday, July 19, at the Hilton Post Oak in Houston.
Davis turned in his biggest season as a Bearkat in 2017 on his way to being named the SLC Offensive Player of the Year and a number of all-America honors along the way which included being named a first team all-purpose player by HERO Sports.
He was named an all-SLC preseason first team choice at three positions for this season: wide receiver, all-purpose and punt returner. Last year the Kats moved him all over the field and he finished with 78 catches for 1,206 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also had a pair of rushing scores and two more via punt return, ranking second in all of FCS with 21 total touchdowns for the season.
Also an AP and AFCA all-America first team wide receiver in 2017, he enters 2018 already holding the SHSU all-time record in touchdown with 30 and is just nine shy of tying the SLC career total in the same category. He also ranks in the top five at SHSU in career receptions and receiving yards and last year became just the fourth Bearkat in history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same season.
Nathan Stewart enters his junior season as one of the most productive wideouts in the nation over the past two years, earning first team all-SLC honors last year and first team all-America honors from both STATS FCS and HERO Sports in 2017. He is the only Bearkat in program history to record 1,000-yard seasons in multiple years, doing so in both 2016 and 2017, and led all of FCS with 1,648 yards a year ago.
He also hauled in 14 touchdowns and in just two seasons already ranks fourth all-time at SHSU in career receiving yards (2,652) and touchdowns (26). Stewart owns the top two single-game receiving marks in Bearkat history, including a 247-yard performance last season against Northwestern State and a 268-yard day against McNeese as a freshman.
In addition to being a preseason first team all-SLC choice, Watanabe was also named a preseason all-America first team choice by HERO Sports. He earned first-team all-SLC honors a year ago as the starting left tackle for the Kats in all 14 games on the year and was also one of the top offensive linemen for SHSU as a sophomore, helping the Kats establish itself as the top offense in the FCS each of the last three years.
David and Wendt joined Watanabe on the preseason first team, making up a left side of the offensive line for Sam Houston that allowed just one sack per every 38.1 dropbacks a year ago. Both players started every game of the 14-game season with Wendt at center in his first year in a starting role, while David earned second team all-SLC honors in 2017 at left guard.
Meanwhile, Chris Stewart was a second team all-SLC choice last year in addition to being named to the HERO Sports all-America third team. A preseason all-American by HERO Sports this year, he led the SLC and finished second in the FCS with 12.5 total sacks, while tying with teammate P.J. Hall for seventh in the FCS with 19.5 total tackles for loss.
Stewart finished the season with 66 total tackles and a forced fumble, while also blocking a pair of kicks in the win over HBU. His biggest effort of the year came in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs when he registered 15 tackles – including two – sacks in the win over Kennesaw State.
McCollum played a big role on the Bearkat defense as a true freshman in 2017, playing in 14 games and starting 10 at cornerback. The Galveston native racked up 42 total tackles and broke up 14 passes. He also tallied three interceptions – two in the FCS Playoffs – to become the first Bearkat freshman with at least three picks in a season since 2001.