It was a summer day in July at MetLife Stadium and the expectations ran as high as the mercury did in the humid, sweltering heat of New Jersey’s Meadowlands.
Duquesne’s Christian Kuntz and Saint Francis’ Lorenzo Jerome were both present in the Coaches’ Club that day, helping to ceremoniously kick off the 2016 season at the second annual #NECFB Social Media Day.
Months earlier, they had squared off in a winner-take-all 2015 regular season finale at Duquesne’s Rooney Field.
Now, these two all-Northeast Conference performers were about to embark on their senior seasons.
They would have one final chance to leave their mark on the NEC and the Football Championship Subdivision.
As it turns out, they didn’t disappoint.
When STATS Inc, one of the leaders in NCAA FCS coverage, unveiled its All-America Teams on Tuesday, December 20, Kuntz and Jerome found themselves on the First Team.
It marked the first time ever that two NEC players were named to the First Team in the same season.
In all, four NEC players achieved All-America status as Saint Francis wide receiver Kamron Lewis, the NEC Offensive Player of the Year, and Duquesne offensive guard Ben Huss earned spots on the Third Team.
The 2016 season marks the fourth consecutive year that the Northeast Conference produced at least four STATS Inc. (formerly Sports Network) All-Americans. In 2013, a conference-record eight NEC players achieved All-America status. The league garnered eight selections again in 2014 before logging five in 2015.
With his latest selection, Kuntz became the first three-time All-American in the history of NEC football. The Keystone State product played his way onto the Third Team as a sophomore in 2013. After an injury costed him the 2014 season, the fierce linebacker regained his All-America status in 2015 by leading the league in sacks and tackles for loss for the NEC champion Dukes.
Kuntz’s repeat first team selection comes on the heels of a season during which he became the conference’s all-time career sacks leader. Ranking second amongst FCS leaders in both total sacks (11.5) and total TFL (24.0) during regular season, Kuntz snagged his second straight NEC Defensive Player of the year award this past November.
Meanwhile, Jerome has now achieved an All-America selection at two separate positions. In 2015, the native Floridian earned a spot on the STATS All-America Second Team as a kick returner. This time, he enjoys first team honors as a defensive back.
On his way to becoming the first-ever player to earn four consecutive all-NEC first team selections at the same position, Jerome made a conference-high six interceptions despite missing two-plus games due to injury. The senior safety averaged 5.9 tackles and 1.22 passes defended per game for the conference’s top-ranked defense in terms of yards per play and points allowed.
Jerome also averaged 28.9 yards per kickoff return this season and made some cameo appearances on offense as well. He scored three touchdowns – a 79-yard kickoff return TD at Montana, an 89-yard fumble return TD at Towson and a 48-yard touchdown reception on a wheel route at Robert Morris.
Receiver Kamron Lewis’ emergence resulted in two SFU players earning All-America honors in the same season for the first time since the Flash began competing at the FCS level in 1992.
Lewis’ sophomore season was as good as any in NEC history. Helping SFU secure its first-ever NEC title and FCS Playoffs bid, he led the conference in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,349) and receiving touchdowns (10) during regular season.
Surpassing former Flash star Michael Caputo (1,433 yards), Lewis set the NEC’s single-season receiving record (1,478) by making six catches for 129 yards and one touchdown in a NCAA FCS First Round game at Villanova. The NEC Offensive Player of the Year accounted was on the receiving end of 56.4 percent of SFU’s passing yards during the regular season. He logged at least 120 yards receiving in eight of last nine games.
Lewis’ selection means the NEC has had an All-American receiver in four of the past five seasons.
Huss became an All-American in his third season as a starter. The Keystone State product has been a mainstay on the interior of Duquesne’s O-Line since his freshman year (2014), playing mostly right guard for what has routinely been one of the top offensive attacks on the circuit. Helping spring the NEC’s leading rusher (AJ Hines), the three-time all-NEC selection started all 11 games this season as his career total reached 33 starts.
— FCS Football (@FCS_STATS) December 20, 2016
— Duquesne Athletics (@GoDuquesne) December 20, 2016
Jerome, Lewis Selected STATS FCS All-America https://t.co/28qD6bT0Ai
— The Red Flash (@SFUathletics) December 20, 2016