SaberCats Announce 2013 Team Awards
Friday August 9, 2013
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The SaberCats announced today their 2013 team award winners. All awards were presented earlier this week at the Annual Postseason SaberCats Banquet. Defensive back Clevan Thomas, Wide receiver Jason Willis, wide receiver/linebacker Huey Whittaker, offensive lineman George Bussey and defensive lineman Jason Stewart all brought home team honors for their performances during the 2013 season, which saw the SaberCats return to the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Thomas, Whittaker, quarterback Russ Michna, Stewart and linebacker Francis Maka were the 2013 team captains and were instrumental to the team’s success throughout the season.
Thomas (5-10, 195, Florida State) returned to action for the first time since the conclusion of the 2008 season and didn’t miss a beat. The Arena Football League Hall of Fame selection set a new single-season franchise record with 15 interceptions, tying for the league lead. He was named the team’s Defensive Most Valuable Player and Most Inspirational Player for 2013. Of his 15 interceptions, Thomas returned an AFL-record six of them for touchdowns and posted a total of 74.0 tackles (65 solo), recovered two fumbles and forced another. Thomas ranks second in AFL history with 65 career interceptions, and will go down as one of, if not the greatest to ever play this game. His off-field contributions were not to be overshadowed. As a team captain and leader, the former Florida State Seminole was an integral part of the success of one of the best defenses in the league and is credited by teammates for helping improve the play of others around him. Thomas was named First Team All-Arena and is also up for additional league honors, including Riddell Defensive Player of the Year, AFL Defensive Back of the Year and AFL Most Valuable Player.
Willis (6-1, 200, Oregon) earned Offensive Most Valuable Player honors from the team after his franchise record-breaking season. The former Oregon Duck had his best statistical season in 2013, and set the SaberCats single-season franchise record for receiving yards with 1,606 on 123 receptions and posted a career-high 35 touchdowns. His yardage total surpassed all-time great James Roe’s 2007 season, when he posted 1,560 yards. This was Willis’ first season in San Jose, and he was a stabilizing force offensively for the 13-5 SaberCats. Throughout the season, he caught passes from three different quarterbacks and developed chemistry with each of them, leading to a very consistent year. Willis scored touchdowns in 12 of his last 13 games and led the team in scoring with 212 points.
Whittaker (6-5, 225, South Florida) turned in a tremendous 2013 season, his second in San Jose and he was honored this week as the team’s Ironman of the Year. The former South Florida Bull hauled in 89 passes (third most on the team) for 998 yards and 27 touchdowns, while rushing for one more. He also had a huge impact defensively as well as on special teams, earning Second Team All-Arena honors defensively, posting 65.5 total tackles, intercepting six passes, returning four for touchdowns, posting a sack, forcing two fumbles and recovering one more, which was for another touchdown, giving him five defensive scores on the season. Though the AFL removed its annual Ironman of the Year award, Whittaker figures to be a leading candidate for the J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Year and arguably deserves consideration for the AFL’s Most Valuable Player, given his effect on every aspect of the game.
Bussey (6-4, 310, Louisville) made a huge impact up front in his first season with the SaberCats, earning the team’s Offensive Lineman of the Year award. The former Louisville Cardinal started all 18 games along an offensive line that surrendered the fifth fewest sacks in the league at 20 and helped keep quarterback Russ Michna upright since his arrival prior to Week 6’s game in New Orleans. Bussey was also a major asset in the locker room as one of the team leaders throughout the 2013 campaign. The Second Team All-Arena selection is also up for consideration for the league’s Spalding Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Stewart (6-0, 315, Fresno State) had arguably the best season of any nose guard in the AFL in 2013, and was deservedly named the team’s Defensive Lineman of the Year. He posted a career-high 11.0 sacks, which was second to only linebacker Francis Maka (11.5) on the team, and tied for fifth in the league with Philadelphia’s Bryan Robinson. Stewart finished his 2013 season with 21.5 total tackles (13 solo), the 11.0 sacks, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and an interception. In addition to his statistical value, the former Fresno State Bulldog was instrumental in creating pass rush lanes for a defense that ranked second in the league in sacks with 41. The pressure that Stewart applied to opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines created many opportunities for his teammates to cause additional problems for their opponents. Stewart, who earned Second Team All-Arena honors, is also up for consideration for the AFL’s Game Tape Exchange Defensive Lineman of the Year.
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The ArenaBowl XVI, XVIII and XXI champion San Jose SaberCats, just concluded their 17th Arena Football League season. Fans can log on to thesanjosesabercats.com, call 408-673-3400 and follow the SaberCats on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@SJSaberCats) for all of the latest news and information on the team. Please contact the front office at the above phone number for information on 2014 Season Ticket Packages.