GREENSBORO, November 25, 2009 â€“ The North Carolina A&T football team had a pleasant dilemma all season long. The Aggies had two outstanding rookie running backs but only one running back position. They made the best of it.
On Wednesday, Mike Mayhew, one half of the Aggies rookie running back duo in 2009, was named MEAC Rookie of the Year by the MEAC coaches and sports information directors.
Mayhew shared the bulk of the running back duties with fellow rookie Dontavious Payne. Mayhew rushed for 471 yards and six touchdowns on 111 carries. It was the most yards by a rookie since Barry Tuner rushed for 556 yards in 1990, and he scored the most rushing touchdowns by rookie since Al Holland had 12 in 1971.
Payne chipped in with 388 yards and three touchdowns on 110 carries. Each back received a MEAC Rookie of the Week recognition this season.
â€œSeeing those two battle for that starting position was one of the most pleasing elements of our season,â€™â€™ said North Carolina A&T head coach Alonzo Lee. â€œCompetition brings the best out of a man. We can game plan and coach all we want, but when your players have to compete they have to get better. Having (Dontavious Payne) there certainly made Mayhew a better a player and vice versa.â€
The MEAC also released its all-conference team. For the first time since 2005, the Aggies had representation on the first team. In fact, the Aggies placed more than one player on the first team for the first time in six seasons as senior defensive end Jarrell Herring and sophomore safety Justin Ferrell earned first-team slots. Sophomore defensive back Quay Long was a second-team selection.
â€œAll of these young men definitely received well-deserved honors today,â€™â€™ said Lee. â€œTo have the rookie of the year in the conference, and to have two sophomores make the all-conference team shows we have a bright future ahead of us. Weâ€™re not going to stop here; weâ€™re going to keep doing the right things to make this program even more successful.â€
Herring (Detroit, Mich.) was second on the team in tackles with 59. Eleven of his tackles came behind the line of scrimmage. Herring also blocked three kicks and forced three fumbles. His blocked kick on Oct. 3 prevented the Eagles from winning on a game-winning field goal in overtime.
Early in the season, Ferrell was moved from cornerback to safety to take advantage of his speed. The move paid off. Ferrell led the conference in interceptions with six. On Oct. 24, he picked off two passes in the fourth quarter to preserve an Aggies win over Howard. His two picks against N.C. Central led to 10 Aggie points in a 23-17 overtime win.
Long is a two-year starter at cornerback. He is also the Aggies punt returner. On Oct. 31, he returned a punt a school-record 96 yards for a touchdown against Bethune-Cookman. It was the Aggies first punt return in four seasons. Long had three interceptions and five breakups this season.