CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The University of North Alabama had six student-athletes named to the 2021 All-Big South Conference football team, while senior defensive back K.J. Smith of Perry, Ga., was named the Big South Scholar Athlete of the Year for the third straight time.
Smith and senior defensive lineman Wallace Cowins, Jr., of Conyers, Ga., were first-team All-Big South selections.
Redshirt freshman running back Parker Driggers of Brantley, Ala., redshirt junior receiver Dexter Boykin of Fairfield, Ala.,
senior punter Joe Gurley of Killen, Ala., and freshman punt returner Kobe Warden of Killen, Ala., were all second-team All-Big South picks.
Smith was named to the Big South All-Academic team and was the league’s top scholar athlete for the third straight season.
Smith was named All-Big South for the second straight season after leading the conference with six interceptions and ranking second in interception return yardage at 69. He is also second in the league in total passes defended with 12. He made 32 solo tackles and added 10 assists.
A four-year starter for the Lions, Smith has 12 career interceptions.
Cowins led the Big South Conference in forced fumbles this season with four, to go with 26 solo tackles, 23 assists, 9.5 tackles for loss of 34 yards, five sacks for 23 yards, one pass breakup and two forced fumbles. A three-year starter at UNA, Cowins ranked ninth in the Big South in sacks and is 35th among all Big South defenders at every position in tackles with 4.45 per game.
In his first full season of action at UNA, Driggers rushed for 470 yards on 89 carries with nine touchdowns. He earned a Big South Conference Offensive Player of the Week honor for Oct. 16 after rushing for 145 yards, with 255 all-purpose yards, including a school, conference and NCAA record 99-yard TD run against Robert Morris. Driggers also caught 22 passes for 158 yards and scored one TD. He ranks fourth in the Big South Conference in scoring with 10 touchdowns.
Boykin caught 50 passes for 712 yads and five touchdowns, averaging 14.2 yards per catch. He ranks fifth in the Big South in receiving yards, sixth in total receptions and seventh in receptions per game. His top game of the 2021 season saw him make 10 catches for 172 yards against Monmouth.
Boykin ranks third in UNA history in career catches (136) and career receiving yards (2,069). He caught at least one pass in all 36 games that he has played in at UNA.
Gurley was named All-Big South Conference for the second straight season after setting a UNA single season record in 2021 with a 43.3 punting average. He also set a school career mark with 31 punts over 50 yards. He punted 45 times this season, with nine punts over 50 yards and 14 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. UNA led the Big South in net punting this fall, with just nine of Gurley’s punts returned. He earned five career Big South Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors, including twice in 2021.
Warden ranked second in the conference in punt return yards with 57, returning six punts for a 9.5 average and a long return of 23 yards.
In earning his third Big South Scholar Athlete of the Year award, Smith has a perfect 4.0 GPA as he pursues a Master of Science in Health and Human Performance degree. He previously graduated with a 4.0 GPA while earning a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with an emphasis on Health. In addition to being a three-time Big South hionoree, he is also a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and a two-time, first-team Academic All-American.
2021 BIG SOUTH FOOTBALL ALL-CONFERENCE TEAMS AND ANNUAL AWARD WINNERS
QB Xavier Shepherd, Soph., Kennesaw State
QB Tony Muskett, Soph., Monmouth
RB Narii Gaither, Jr., Gardner-Webb
RB Juwon Farri, R-Jr., Monmouth
WR Caleb Snead, R-Sr., Campbell
WR Lonnie Moore IV, R-Sr., Monmouth
WR Jadakis Bonds, Jr., Hampton
TE Julian Hill, Sr., Campbell
OL AJ Farris, R-Sr., Monmouth
OL Jake Lassiter, Gr., Kennesaw State
OL William Nana Fabu, Sr., Kennesaw State
OL Mahmoud Shabana, R-Sr., Monmouth
OL Tyler McLellan, R-Sr., Campbell
DL Brevin Allen, Sr., Campbell
DL Shaundre Mims, R-Sr., Charleston Southern
DL Ty French, Soph., Gardner-Webb
DL Wallace Cowins Jr., Sr., North Alabama
LB Evan Thompson, Sr., Kennesaw State
LB William McRainey, Soph., Gardner-Webb
LB Garrett Sayegh, Sr., Charleston Southern
LB Eddie Hahn, R-Sr., Monmouth
DB K.J. Smith, Gr., North Alabama
DB Malachi Buckner, Jr., Gardner-Webb
DB Eddie Morales III, R-Sr., Monmouth
DB Anthony Budd, R-Sr., Monmouth
PK Nathan Robertson, Sr., Kennesaw State
P Ryan Kost, Jr., Monmouth
LS Jacob Potter, Sr., Kennesaw State
KR Lonnie Moore IV, R-Sr., Monmouth
PR Eddie Morales III, R-Sr., Monmouth
QB Jack Chambers, R-Sr., Charleston Southern
RB Elijah Burris, Fr., Hampton
RB Parker Driggers, R-Soph., North Alabama
WR Dexter Boykin, R-Jr., North Alabama
WR Terrance Greene Jr., R-Sr., Monmouth
WR Cayden Jordan, R-Jr., Charleston Southern
TE Gene Scott, R-Sr., Monmouth
OL Zion Katina, Jr., Kennesaw State
OL Dacquari Wilson, Jr., North Carolina A&T
OL Gabe Thompson, Soph., Gardner-Webb
OL Brian Syracuse, R-Sr., Monmouth
OL Terrell Paxton, Jr., Kennesaw State
DL Travis Bell, Sr., Kennesaw State
DL Lorenzo Hernandez, Jr., Monmouth
DL Ricardo Watson, R-Soph., Robert Morris
DL Anton Williams, Gr., Charleston Southern
LB Jacob Roberts, Soph., North Carolina A&T
LB Jamar Shegog, R-Soph., Robert Morris
LB Chance Bates, Sr., Kennesaw State
LB KeShaun Moore, Jr., Hampton
DB Tyrese Wright, Jr., Monmouth
DB Hombre Kennedy, Sr., Charleston Southern
DB Darion Slade, R-Sr., Campbell
DB TJ Comstock, Sr., Gardner-Webb
PK Axel Perez, Jr., Hampton
P Joe Gurley, Gr., North Alabama
LS Ethan Ray, Gr., Charleston Southern
KR Josh McNeely, R-Sr., Campbell
PR Kobe Warden, Fr., North Alabama
Levi Wiggins, DB, Gr., Campbell
Hombre Kennedy, S, Sr., Charleston Southern
William McRainey, LB, Soph., Gardner-Webb
Brandon Richards, LS, Soph., Hampton
Caleb O’Neal, Sr., WR, Kennesaw State
Eddie Morales III, DB/PR, Sr., Monmouth
K.J. Smith, DB, Gr., North Alabama
John Davis, LS, Sr., North Carolina A&T
Trevor Hicks, OL, Gr., Robert Morris
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Xavier Shepherd, QB, Soph., Kennesaw State
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Brevin Allen, DL, Sr., Campbell
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Nathan Robertson, K, Sr., Kennesaw State
OFFENSIVE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Elijah Burris, RB, Hampton
DEFENSIVE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Garland Benyard, DB, Kennesaw State
COACH OF THE YEAR
Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State
SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
K.J. Smith, DB, Gr., North Alabama