After completing its most successful season in four years of American Athletic Conference play, Tulane (5-7, 3-5) was rewarded with its best representation on the all-conference football squad.
Senior cornerback Parry Nickerson earned first-team All-AAC honors in voting by the league’s coaches, with senior running back Dontrell Hilliard and senior linebacker Rae Juan Marbley making the second team and junior cornerback Donnie Lewis getting honorable mention.
Nickerson, a second-team selection a year ago and an honorable mention as a freshman under former coach Curtis Johnson, had 55 tackles and a conference-best six interceptions. He finished his career with 16 interceptions, the second-most in school history behind Paul Ellis’ 18.
“I had a great career at Tulane,” Nickerson said. “They set me up and put me in the right positions to make plays. They gave me several opportunities. So much love to them.”
Hilliard, a Scotlandville High graduate and the first Tulane offensive player ever to make the all-AAC team, rushed for 1,091 yards, the third-highest total in the AAC, and 12 touchdowns, tied for the most by a running back. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry, becoming the fifth Tulane running back to surpass 1,000 yards in a season. His 2,948 career yards are the fifth-highest total in school history.
Marbley, in his first year as a full-time starter, had team highs of 96 tackles and 9½ stops for loss as the replacement for Nico Marley at middle linebacker. His eight tackles per game ranked seventh in the AAC, and he was named AAC Defensive Player of the Week after making 12 tackles in an overtime victory at East Carolina on Nov. 11.
Lewis broke up 11 passes, including six against East Carolina. He finished with 36 tackles and three interceptions, drawing praise from coach Willie Fritz for his improved tackling. His combined interception/breakup total of 14 was one shy of the league best.
Tulane also has four players make All-AAC in 2014, but two of them (Nickerson and Marley) were honorable mention picks and the other two (Lorenzo Doss and Sam Scofield) were on the second team.
Marley and defensive tackle Tanzel Smart were first-team picks in 2015 and 2016.
Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton was Offensive Player of the Year, and the Knights' Scott Frost was Coach of the Year. UCF (11-0) hosts Memphis (11-1) in the AAC championship game Saturday.
Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver was Defensive Player of the Year.