for Complete List of All-NEC Honorees
- Student-athletes from all nine Northeast Conference football programs received recognition when the league office unveiled the 2012 All-NEC First and Second Teams along with the season’s five major award winners.
Albany, which did not claim any of the five major honors, garnered the most all-NEC selections (nine) with Wagner and Duquesne each claiming eight. The recipients of all honors were determined by a vote of the conference’s nine head coaches.
As Wagner prepares to make its NCAA FCS playoff debut against Colgate on November 24, the Seahawks’ Walt Hameline captured the NEC Coach of the Year award for the first time.
The NEC Offensive Player of the Year is a Bryant Bulldog for the second straight season. This time, junior wide receiver Jordan Harris claimed the honor that running back Jordan Brown held in 2011. Harris also picked up all-NEC first team accolades for the second year in a row.
Both major defensive honors went to Robert Morris Colonials. Senior defensive end Nolan Nearhoof added the NEC Defensive Player of the Year award to a resume that already includes two CoSIDA Academic All-America honors. RMU freshman cornerback Marcelis Branch was billed the NEC Defensive Rookie of the Year. Nearhoof was also named to the All-NEC First Team Defense for the third season in a row, while Branch settled for second team honors.
Freshman running back Anthony Abeid, who came on late and helped Saint Francis (PA) set its FCS single-season program record for victories, claimed the NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year accolade.
Harris had a season unlike any NEC receiver in the past seven years. In fact, only one man ever – Saint Francis’ Michael Caputo in 2005 – gained more receiving yards in a single season than Harris did in 2012. The 5-foot-11 junior made 61 receptions for 1,243 yards and 15 touchdowns. All three of those marks ranked first amongst NEC leaders. Harris became only the sixth man in NEC history to produced a 1,000-yard receiving season as his 1,243 yards are second only to Caputo’s 1,433 in the league’s single-season record book. Harris’ 20.4 yards per catch average was actually a dip from the astronomical 22.8 ypc mark. Having been the NEC's top receiver (in terms of yardage) each of the past two season, Harris has given himself the opportunity to become the No. 1 receiver in the conference's history. Harris (2,704 yards) needs only 761 yards to take over first place on the conference’s all-time receiving yardage list. The Pennsylvania product currently sits fifth on the list, but is only 164 yards shy of sole possession of second place, which is currently held by former Monmouth Hawk, and current Dallas Cowboy, Miles Austin (2,867).
Nearhoof’s senior campaign was his best yet. The 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive end registered a career-high 10.5 sacks to take over the all-time NEC lead in that category. With 2.5 sacks in Robert Morris’ season finale against Monmouth, Nearhoof (26.5) moved passed for Sacred Heart star Odain Mitchell (26.0) for first place on the league’s career leader board. The Keystone State product totaled 76 tackles, 13.0 of which resulted in a loss of yardage, and two pass break-ups over his 11 starts this season. Accolades are nothing new for the overly-decorated defensive end. Nearhoof, who owns a 3.74 GPA as a biology major, is a two-time Academic All-American and also claimed the NEC’s Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year award for both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Additionally, Nearhoof was recently selected as one of 15 National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar-Athletes, and the only one from the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). As a result, he was granted an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and is a finalist for the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy that recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation.
Branch made his first career start in Week 2 against Albany and proceeded to build a reputation as one of the league’s top cover corners. His breakthrough performance came in a Week 5 win over Patriot League member Lafayette when he forced a fumble, intercepted a pass and made a key third-down tackle in the fourth quarter. Branch, who earned the NEC Defensive Player of the Week award for his effort against the Leopards, was a two-time NEC Rookie of the Week in 2012. The 5-foot-11 native Floridian finished his freshman campaign with three interceptions, six pass break-ups and two forced fumbles. He totaled 58 tackles, including 38 stops in seven games against NEC opponents.
As a rookie in a talent-crowded backfield, Abeid was used sparingly until November. In the season’s final two games, however, Abeid saw his role expand and responded by averaging 6.5 yards per carry. In victories over Monmouth and Sacred Heart, which allowed Saint Francis to reach its highest single-season win total since the start of NEC football, Abeid rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns on 29 total carries. He broke 30-plus yard touchdown runs in each of the victories. His 119-yard performance at Monmouth in the NEC-TV Featured Game of the Week on November 10 earned him the Ruby Tuesday Player of the Game award. On the season, Abeid totaled 380 yards from scrimmage. He ran 45 times for 258 yards and caught seven passes for 122 yards.
Hameline entered the 2012 season with 204 wins under his belt, but none of his teams had ever finished atop the NEC standings since the football conference’s founding in 1996. Three months and eight wins later, Hameline and his Seahawks are Northeast Conference champions and will represent the league in the 20-team NCAA Division I Championship bracket. The veteran head coach and his team had to ignore the NEC preseason poll results, which pegged Wagner for a seventh place finish, and overcome a 0-3 start in order to end their title drought. Since dropping its NEC opener to Outer Bridge rival Monmouth on September 15, Wagner has won eight games in a row. The last three victories in that stretch were especially impressive. In Week 10, the Seahawks pitched a 30-0 shutout on the road against NEC preseason favorite Albany. They followed with a thrilling come-from-behind win over Patriot League member Holy Cross before grinding out a title-clinching victory over Duquesne in the regular season finale.