LAFAYETTE — Sophomore running back Elijah McGuire was in a his usual deferential mood on Wednesday, heaping praise on his teammates for his own individual success.
He didn’t need to say much. The accolades spoke for themselves.
McGuire was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Wednesday to go along with Offensive Player of the Year and first team running back and all-purpose back honors after compiling more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign.
“I was kind of shocked about it,” McGuire said. “It means more to the offense than it does for me, because without them, this probably wouldn’t be possible. Everything starts up front with the offensive line. They did a great job all year of making holes for me.”
McGuire has a point. While his flashy numbers immediately grab the eye, the Cajuns were well-represented across the board, and especially on the offensive line.
Right guard Daniel Quave was named to the SBC’s First Team, the first such honor for the fifth-year senior. His younger brother Mykhael, the Cajuns left tackle, made the second team and senior center Terry Johnson made the list as an honorable mention.
Joining Daniel Quave and McGuire on the first team were senior defensive linemen Christian Ringo and Justin Hamilton. Ringo led the conference in
both sacks and tackles for loss, and was without doubt up for consideration for the SBC Defensive Player of the Year, which went to Texas State linebacker David Mayo and his nation-leading 154 tackles.
Placekicker Hunter Stover and cornerback Corey Trim joined the younger Quave on the second team. Stover, in his first year handling the Cajuns’ kicking duties, drilled 15 of his 18 attempts.
Quarterback Terrance Broadway, tight end Larry Pettis and linebacker Dominique Tovell also earned an honorable mention, and redshirt freshman safety Tracy Walker was named to the All-Newcomer Team. The Cajuns were represented by a league-high eight players.
“I’m just excited for (McGuire), excited for our program to have so many guys selected,” said Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth. “It goes to show what the rest of the conference thinks about our team.”
For Pettis, who sat for three years behind more experienced players, the award was a realization of a preseason goal.
“I was pretty excited,” Pettis said. “I know I busted my tail this year. It was one of my personal goals. I didn’t tell anybody that I wanted to make the Sun Belt team. But being an honorable mention in this conference with a lot of great players, I felt it was great to even be mentioned on the list.”
But as much as the Cajuns were recognized as a team on the all-conference teams, talk inevitably circled back to McGuire and the impact he had this season.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be able to block for a guy like him,” Mykhael Quave said.
McGuire helped turn the Cajuns season around after senior receiver Jamal Robinson was lost for the season, leading the team in both rushing and receiving yards.
“He deserved it,” Broadway said. “He was a big component of our offense.”
His signature game came when the Cajuns needed him most. With the Cajuns defense struggling to slow down a potent Arkansas State offensive attack, McGuire ran for 265 yards and four touchdowns, both career highs.
McGuire was especially effective in the fourth quarter of that contest, when he ran for 93 yards. His two long touchdown runs in the final three minutes of that game rendered Arkansas State’s 17 fourth-quarter points moot.
“I expected Elijah to make it and I’m glad he did,” Hudspeth said. “He just had a phenomenal year.”
The honors come on the heels of McGuire being named the SBC’s Freshman of the Year in 2013, which begs one to figure out how he can top his play next year.
“That’s the next question,” McGuire said. “What’s next? But I won’t get ahead of myself. I’ll just continue what I’m doing, working hard, watching film of my opponents and hopefully I’ll have another great season next year.”
In the meantime, McGuire might just find a way to enjoy the personal accomplishments along with the guys that helped him earn them.
“To be a sophomore and to have both of those honors, it’s a great feeling,” McGuire said.