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True To The Cru’s 2021 Football Players of the Year

After an amazing year that featured 20 wins for the UMHB football team, it is now time to announce True To The Cru’s Football Players of the Year, presented by our gold sponsors. 

There were four deserving candidates for our Offensive Player of the Year, but Kyle King’s record-breaking season earned him the honor. The senior quarterback, who will return in 2022, threw for 2,682 passing yards, and 35 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He completed 65.6% of his passing attempts (168-of-256) and finished the year with the nation’s highest passing efficiency (196.7), which also ranks as the highest mark in program history. He broke the single game record for passing touchdowns, with six against Linfield on Dec. 4, and threw for a program-record 436 passing yards in the Stagg Bowl win over North Central. He started 16 of UMHB’s 20 wins during the calendar year. King earned 51 percent of the general vote and was the media’s unanimous vote. 

Defensively, E’Monte Smith is the Defensive Player of the Year after a phenomenal season at defensive end. Smith, a senior, tallied a team-high 8.5 sacks, along with 15.5 tackles for loss. As one of UMHB’s top edge rushers, he recorded 41 total tackles, 20 of which were solo, and added 10 quarterback hits. He helped the Cru defense to a number of notable performances, limiting opponents to an average of 3.9 yards per play. He picked up 51 percent of the general vote, and nearly 50 percent of the media vote.

KJ Miller is the Special Teams Player of the Year after a remarkable season that saw him finish second in the nation in yards per punt return (25.0). The senior tallied 626 yards on 25 punt returns during the 2021 season, and also returned four kickoffs for 60 yards. In 12 games, he scored twice on punt returns, including an impressive 88-yard sprint against Sul Ross State. Miller’s 626 yards ranks him No. 2 on the all-time list for most punt return yards in a season, just behind Geoff Myles’ 688 in 2010, and his 619 in 2018. Miller was a unanimous selection by the media, and earned 77 percent of the vote from the general public. 

Running back Aphonso Thomas is the Offensive Newcomer of the Year, as the junior running back made his debut as a Crusader with a 99-yard performance on Sept. 11. He led the team in rushing yards with 1,128 yards on 204 carries, scoring 14 times. The former Trinity Valley Community College standout averaged 5.5 yards per carry, and earned 87 percent of the general vote. He was also a unanimous vote from the local media. 

The Defensive Newcomer of the Year is Durand Hill, who stepped up as a linebacker during his freshman season. He tallied 17 total tackles, 11 of those solo, and 2.5 tackles for loss. The Austin native recorded one sack, two quarterback hits and a fumble recovery, and improved throughout the course of the season. Hill earned 75 percent of the vote from the fans and the majority vote from the media. 

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