Already a first-team All-Southern Conference pick and a nominee for SoCon defensive player of the year, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga linebacker Wes Dothard received his biggest postseason honor Monday.
The sophomore from Carrollton, Ga., was named first-team All-America by the Sports Network following his first season as a starter. He's the first UTC first-teamer since punter Pumpy Tudors in 1990.
"It was a big surprise -- I was shocked when I found out," Dothard said. "Everything I got this year was a great achievement for me."
Several other All-America teams have been released in recent weeks, and Dothard didn't get a mention on any of them. He said he was in bed watching TV when he got the news Monday.
"This is the best Christmas present I'm going to get this year," he said.
Among the other players who made the Sports Network's teams were Tennessee Tech wide receiver Tim Benford (second team) from Red Bank High School, Tennessee State linebacker Rico Council (third team) from Howard and Georgia Southern kicker Adrian Mora (third team) of Dalton. All just finished their senior seasons.
Neither Mocs coach Russ Huesman nor defensive coordinator Adam Fuller was too stunned by Dothard's selection. Both felt he had a season worthy of All-America status.
"He had a great year this year and he deserves it," Huesman said.
On UTC's SoCon-leading defense, Dothard was sixth in the league with 98 tackles and third with 15.5 tackles for loss. He also forced a league-high five fumbles, returned a fumble for a touchdown and ran back an interception for a score.
"He had the numbers," Fuller said. "I'm really happy for him."
Dothard started one game and had a total of 24 tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2010. After a very productive offseason, he had a breakout season.
"He exceeded our expectations this year, for sure," Huesman said. "We knew he had ability and he just needed to get everything correct in his life, from academics to weight to just making a commitment to being a great player. And he did."
UTC has had a player named to a postseason All-America team each of the past three seasons. In 2009, kicker Craig Camay was named to the Associated Press second team and defensive end Josh Beard made the third team, and wide receiver Joel Bradford made the AP's third team last season.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.