December 12, 2012 10:50:02 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
For 15th-ranked East Mississippi Community College, postseason hardware in football is quickly becoming the norm.
The Lions placed four players on the NJCAA All-American teams, released Wednesday. Only national champion Iowa Western Community College and No. 3 Snow College had more honorees than EMCC.
Free safety Justin Cox earned first-team honors, while defensive end Za'Darius Smith earned second-team honors. Strong safety Shaquille Fluker and quarterback Quez Johnson earned honorable mention.
"It is a great way to cap my career," said Cox, who played high school ball at West Point High School. "To be recognized as one of the best players in the nation is quite an honor."
Cox finished eight in the nation with six pass interceptions this season for the 8-2 Lions. A Mississippi State University commitment, Cox had 52 total tackles this season. For his two-year EMCC career, Cox finished with 119 total tackles, 11 interceptions and 19 pass breakups.
His previous honors this season include being named the 2012 MACJC North Division Defensive Back Most Valuable Back, as well as being chosen all-region by the NJCAA.
"We had a lot of success here and I am glad I was able to play a small part in that," Cox said. "The key to our success was teamwork and unity. We communicated real well on the field and everybody had the ability to make plays."
Smith, a standout from Alabama's Greenville High School, capped his career with 47 total tackles, including 30 solo stops, with a team-best 6.5 sacks. With four forced fumbles and two pass breakups, Smith has also been chosen the nation's top-rated junior college strong side defensive end by JCGridiron.com.
Smith had 66 tackles and 11 sacks at EMCC.
A University of Georgia commitment, Fluker finished 14th nationally with five interceptions, while also recording 34 tackles and four pass breakups.
The former Meridian High School standout had 106 total tackles and seven interceptions in his two-year career with the Lions.
A former standout at Starkville High School, Johnson threw for 2,846 yards and 27 touchdowns.
A two-time NJCAA national Offensive Player of the Week, Johnson has committed to Florida Atlantic University.
EMCC has now had 13 All-Americans under fifth-year coach Buddy Stephens, including five straight years at quarterback.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter