Gardin Earns FCS All-American Honors
GREENSBORO – North Carolina A&T sophomore Khris Gardin is on the verge of breaking a football championship subdivision record and it apparently did not go unnoticed by a nationwide panel of All-American voters. On Tuesday, Gardin was selected to the STATS FCS All-American first team as a punt returner by a group of media professionals, sports information directors and administrators.
Teammates Tarik Cohen (5-6, 173, JR, Bunn, N.C.) and Brandon Parker (6-7, 279, R-SO, Kannapolis, N.C.) were also recognized. Cohen earned third-team All-American honors from the organization as a running back for the second straight season. Parker, the MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Year, was also a third-team selection.
Gardin (5-7, 158, SO, Morganton, N.C.) is the first first-team All-American punt returner since Curtis Deloatch in 2001. Oddly, enough it is Gardin who has erased some of Deloatch’s single-season records. Gardin is only two yards shy of breaking the NCAA FCS record for punt return yards in a season as the Aggies head to Atlanta to face Alcorn State in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, Dec. 19. ABC will air the broadcast live at noon.
Deloatch once held the record with 530 punt return yards in a season. The record is currently held by Montana’s Tuff Harris with 667 punt return yards in a season. Gardin also has a chance to break the FCS single-season record for punt return yards per game. The record belongs to Duquesne’s Joe Rosato (54.7). Gardin is averaging 60.5 punt return yards per game. If Gardin has a big game for the Aggies on Saturday he would break Deloatch’s national per punt return yardage which stands at 26.5. Gardin leads the nation with an average of 22.2 yards per return.
Gardin also holds the school record for punt returns in a season with 30.
“That’s great news about Khris,” said N.C. A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “He certainly deserves it. I mean he is a weapon back there for us. He is the kind of guy who is going to make you pay for kicking it to him. If you’re on the other side, and he has the ball in his hands, you’ve got to be holding your breath.”
Gardin has two punt returns for touchdowns this season – a 71-yarder at Hampton (Oct.3) and an 82-yarder against Howard (Oct. 24). He has seven punts of 40 yards or more. His breakout game was at Hampton when he returned four punts for 203 yards in the Aggies 45-31 win.
Gardin, Cohen and Parker were among 102 players chosen, spread out among 57 schools and all 13 FCS conferences that comprise the three All-American teams. The Aggies head into the Celebration Bowl 9-2 overall and co-champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
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STATS is headquartered in Chicago, with offices globally. On the heels of its acquisition of The Sports Network in February 2015, STATS made a commitment to bolster its FCS coverage, including the creation of a direct-to-consumer news site and an end-of-season awards show to honor past and present performers of FCS football.