NORFOLK, Va. - Mike Mayhew, one of the most decorated running backs in the history of North Carolina A&T football, continued to stockpile honors on Friday when he was named preseason MEAC Offensive Player of the Year at the 2012 MEAC Football Press Luncheon at the Norfolk Sheraton Waterside Hotel.
Mayhew was the only player from the Aggies offense to make the preseason All-MEAC first team. Senior defensive end Tony Mashburn, junior linebacker D'Vonte Grant and junior safety Travis Crosby were named to the first-team defense. Junior offensive lineman Nathan Isles and senior defensive tackle Brandon Young made the second team.
As a team, the Aggies were picked to finish sixth in the conference following a season in which they were 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the MEAC. Norfolk State was picked to claim its second straight MEAC title after grabbing 11 first-place votes. The Spartans were followed by S.C. State, Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M and Hampton in the order of prediction.
"I think everyone gets excited at the start of a new season," said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. "It's our job as coaches to hold that excitement. If you hold it, they can see themselves getting better. Hopefully, that translates into us winning some football games. I think we have core group of guys who understand how we want to get things done. Guys are really putting forth the effort and going for it."
The cornerstone of that group is Mayhew. His preseason Player of the Year recognition comes eight months after he earned Co-MEAC Offensive Player of the Year honors following the 2011 season where he led the MEAC in rushing (101.8 per game). His other accolades include being named MEAC Rookie of the Year (2009), earning a spot on the 2011 Walter Payton Watch List for best offensive Division I-FCS player in the nation and he is a two-time first-team All-MEAC performer.
But none of that is what impresses Broadway. It is the maturity he has seen from his star back since last season.
"He is starting to show leadership," said Broadway. "I think Mike has come a long way in understanding how we do things, when we do things and why we do things. Others on our football team have come to that understanding too, but it's real important that Mike understands it because he is one of our better players."
Mayhew is trying to become the first Aggie in school history to rush for 1,000 yards three consecutive seasons. He would become only the third back in MEAC history to accomplish the feat. If he leads the Aggies in rushing this season, he will join Stoney Polite as the only two players in school history to lead the Aggies in rushing four consecutive years. He needs just139 yards rushing to become the school's all-time leading rusher.
"Mike is an excellent player, but what I like is his attitude," said Broadway. "His attitude has improved his effort, so there is no telling how good he can be this year."
A&T's defense could be as big of standout as Mayhew. The Aggies led the MEAC in rush defense and they had the eighth best defense in the nation. Tony Mashburn led the team in tackles for loss (12.5) as the Aggies held five different opponents to under 40 yards rushing in 2011. Mashburn also recorded 5.5 sacks.
Grant led the Aggies in tackles and made was a Jerry Rice Finalist for best FCS rookie. Crosby also had a standout season. He was second on the team in tackles, made 10 tackles for loss and he returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown against S.C. State.
Isles is a two-year starter who is slated to play right guard this season. Young played on the interior of the Aggies' stingy defense. He made four sacks from his defensive tackle position. A&T opens the season on Sept. 1 at Coastal Carolina. A time has not been posted yet. The Aggies' home opener is Sept. 8 against West Virginia State at 6 p.m.
2012 MEAC Football Preseason Predictions
Norfolk State (11) 454
2. South Carolina State (4) 432
3. Bethune-Cookman (3) 417
4. Florida A&M (2) 354
5. Hampton (1) 268
6. N.C. A&T 216
7. Morgan State 198
8. Howard 188
9. N.C. Central 116
10. Delaware State 78
11. Savannah State (1) 73