Robinson, Graham earn first-team honors
GREENSBORO – It was very difficult for opponents to sack Aggie quarterbacks this season. A big part of the reason why was North Carolina A&T sophomore left tackle William Ray Robinson III. Robinson headlines a list of six Aggie football players who earned All-MEAC honors on Saturday when the conference released the list of first and second team honorees.
Joining Robinson on the first team was junior cornerback D’Vonte Graham. It is Graham’s second first-team honor in three years, as he has earned a reputation throughout the conference of being a lockdown corner.
The second-team selections were senior running back Mike Mayhew, senior defensive lineman Chris Neal, junior linebacker D’Vonte Grant and junior strong safety Travis Crosby. The six all-conference selections are the most since A&T had eight players named to the 2001 team. The recognitions are a testament to the Aggies finishing 7-4 after winning their final four games of 2012, resulting in the school’s first winning season in nine years. Also during the season, the Aggies defense went 17 straight quarters without giving up an offensive touchdown.
“I’m happy for all our guys. They all deserve it,” said A&T coach Rod Broadway. “Our young men bought into what we were trying to do, and what we were trying to accomplish this year, so I’m proud of all of them. They are the reason we had success this year.”
Robinson protected the blindside of quarterbacks Lewis Kindle and Kwashaun Quick in 2012. Aggie quarterbacks were sacked only 13 times this season, the fewest amount in the conference. Robinson consistently graded higher than any other lineman on the roster from week to week, and he earned MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors on Monday, Nov. 12 after helping the Aggies compile 401 yards of total offense in a 17-7 win over S.C. State on Nov. 10. It was the Aggies first win over the Bulldogs in 12 years.
“He has a bright, bright future,” Broadway said about Robinson. “He does well in the classroom, he does the things we ask him to do; I just can’t say enough about him. We’re lucky to have him on our team.”
Broadway also has a hard time summing up all the things Graham means to the Aggies, so whenever asked about Graham, Broadway simply replies, “He’s something, isn’t he?”
The Aggies play an aggressive style of defense, which is predicated on blitzing the passer. It forces A&T defensive backs to play a lot of one-on-one coverage. Graham relishes the opportunity to cover receivers one-on-one. He was third in the MEAC in interceptions (four) and passes defended (12). He was tied for 23rd in the nation in interceptions.
Graham returned an INT 58 yards for a touchdown in a 38-10 win over Howard on Oct. 13. He also returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown against S.C. State on Nov. 10. As the Aggies kick/punt returner, he had a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Aggies 40-7 over Virginia University of Lynchburg on Sept. 15, and he returned a missed field goal 100 yards in the Aggies 30-9 homecoming win over Norfolk State on Oct. 27. In 2010, Graham led the MEAC in interceptions and was a first-team selection.
Mayhew also has multiple conference accolades. The final carry of his career resulted in a game-winning touchdown in overtime against archrival N.C. Central on Nov. 17. It was a fitting end to a marvelous four years for the Charlotte native. He finished his career with a school-record 3,521 career rushing yards. He also scored 29 touchdowns, and completed his career as one of only three A&T players with more than 4,000 all-purpose yards.
Mayhew finished the 2012 season fourth in the league in rushing with 77.1 yards per game. He rushed for 848 yards and seven touchdowns with 743 of his yards coming against conference opponents. Mayhew is the most decorated running back in school history. In 2009, he was named MEAC Rookie of the Year. In 2010 and ‘11, Mayhew earned first-team honors and in 2011, he was named Co-MEAC Offensive Player of the Year.
Neal was a part of the No. 2 defense in the nation. The Greensboro Dudley High School graduate made 33 tackles from his defensive tackle position. He also had nine tackles for loss and three sacks. Neal also intercepted a pass against Morgan State on ESPNU on Sept. 27, and returned it 26 yards.
Grant had another superb season for the Aggies. A year after being a Jerry Rice Finalist for best rookie in the nation, Grant led the Aggies in tackles for the second consecutive season. He played and started in all 11 games, and was eighth in the MEAC with 8.0 tackles per game. Grant also returned two interceptions for touchdowns during the season. His 35-yard INT return for a touchdown against Florida A&M on Nov. 3 was the only touchdown of the game as the Aggies defeated the Rattlers 16-3.
Crosby played in and started 10 games. He was fourth in the conference in tackles with 8.7 tackles per game. On four separate occasions, he had double-figure tackles. He had nine tackles for loss and he also intercepted a pass. The all-around safety also defended nine passes on the season.