Although Northern Arizona University fields a Division I football team, its mid-major FCS program runs into trouble when it tries to recruit in-state: It has to take its place in line behind the big boys since Arizona has two Pac-12 football programs.
Thankfully, the state has enough talent to help stock the Lumberjack program – as illustrated recently when the Big Sky Conference announced its preseason All-Conference teams.
Of the 27 players named to the team, three were Lumberjacks, including Mountain Pointe High School alumnus Emmanuel Butler. He and two others were local products.
And all three were unanimous selections by a group that includes Big Sky media members and sports information directors.
Besides seniors Butler and Tyler Shank from Chandler High, there’s sophomore Griffin Roehler from Avondale.
Butler has gained the most recognition simply by virtue of his wide receiver position that has allowed him to make his mark in the stat columns.
And those stats have been impressive. He will come into the 2017 season with a good chance to set two of the school’s career records.
Butler needs 597 receiving yards to break the NAU record in that category and is just three touchdown receptions away from the other record. He ranks fourth in the NCAA in career receiving yards and yards per game.
He already holds the single-season record of 1,208 receiving yards, so 597 is well within his reach.
A record-setting senior season will be a fitting way to cap off a football career that included helping Mountain Pointe to an undefeated season and its first state championship.
The Lumberjacks underachieved last season, finishing 5-6 overall and 4-4 in conference after having been picked in the preseason to win the Big Sky. They go into this season projected to finish third in the conference.
They will be tested early. The ’Jacks open the season Sept. 2 on the road at Arizona State.
-Reach Art Preuss at phxfan.com