Aztecs dominate all-conference football awards list

San Diego State University dominated the Mountain West Conference football awards as head coach Brady Hoke was named the conference’s coach of the year while juniors Cameron Thomas (Carlsbad) and Matt Araiza (Rancho Bernardo) were selected as the conference’s defensive and special teams players of the year, respectively.

The Aztecs captured the regular season Mountain West West Division title en route to posting a runner-up finish in the Mountain West championship game to Utah State.

The coach of the year honor was the second in his four years in the league for Hoke, who also won the 2010 award. The Aztecs were picked to finish third in the division but finished regular season play 11-1 to tie a school record for most wins in one season.

Thomas, who made the all-MW first team for a third consecutive season, became the third SDSU player to win the conference defensive player of the year award, joining Kirk Morrison (2003-04) and Damontae Kazee (2015-16).

Besides being named a first-team all-MW punter, Araiza was also selected as a second-team kicker. He became SDSU’s second MW special teams player of the year following a three-year run by Rashaad Penny (2015-17).

For the third consecutive year, the Aztecs had the most first-team all-MW selections with eight. Joining Thomas and Araiza (punter) on the first team were offensive linemen William Dunkle (Eastlake) and Zachary Thomas (Carlsbad), linebacker Caden McDonald, safeties Patrick McMorris (Santa Ana) and Trenton Thompson (Palm Springs), and kick returner Jordan Byrd.

SDSU also had four second-team picks in running back Greg Bell (Bonita Vista), defensive lineman Keshawn Banks, defensive back Tayler Hawkins (Palm Springs) and Araiza at punter, and three honorable-mention selections in offensive lineman Alama Uluave, defensive lineman Jonah Tavai (Manhattan Beach) and linebacker Michael Shawcroft (Helix Charter).

San Diego State’s 15 all-league selections match its most since 2001 (when 16 were selected) and only trailed Nevada’s 16 all-conference picks. The Aztecs had the most on the first and second team (12 total selections).

Shawcroft is an all-MW pick for the first time, registering 46 tackles (28 unassisted), 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception, pass breakup, two forced fumbles and five quarterback hurries in 11 games.

Nevada junior quarterback Carson Strong earned honors as the MW offensive player of the year while UNLV quarterback Cameron Friel was named MW freshman of the year.

National awards

Araiza was among the most decorated Aztecs in 2021 after winning the prestigious Ray Guy Award and named a consensus All-American by the NCAA.