Seven former University of Central Arkansas Bears were named to the Southland Conference 2000s All-Decade Football Team on Wednesday.
The UCA honorees include: tight end Marquez Branson (2007-08); quarterback Nathan Brown (2006-08); defensive back Pieri Feazell (2008-09); offensive lineman Lane Friewald (2006-09); offensive lineman Jeremy Ford (2006-08); running back Brent Grimes (2006-09), and defensive end Larry Hart (2008-09).
Branson was a two-time All-SLC selection and a first-team All-American in 2008 by The Sports Network. Branson was also named to the Sporting News Fabulous 50 in 2008 and was selected for the Texas vs. The Nation Bowl. Branson is third in UCA history in single-season touchdown receptions with 11.
Brown, the most decorated player in UCA history, was the 2007 SLC Offensive Player of the Year and the 2009 Player of the Year. He led the league in passing and total offense in 2007 and was a first-team All-American by The Sporting News. Brown was named to The Sporting News Fabulous 50 and was selected for the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. He was also a Payton Award finalist in 2008.
Feazell, from Mount Olive, Miss., was a two-time first-team All-SLC safety. Friewald, from Little Rock, was on the All-SLC team three times. Ford, from Bastrop, La., was a four-year starter and two-time All-SLC selection as an offensive lineman.
Grimes, from Baton Rouge, was one of the most productive running backs in UCA history, earning All-SLC honors three times and setting the school career record with 50 rushing touchdowns. Grimes is also second in single-season touchdowns, second in rushing touchdowns and fourth in career rushing yards. He rushed for 1,222 yards as a senior in 2009.
Hart, from Madison, Miss., and Holmes Community College, was UCA's highest NFL draftee in history, going in the fifth round (pick No. 143) in 2009. Hart was the SLC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and was a two-time All-SLC selection as well as an AP FCS All-American and The Sporting News All-American. Hart was a Buchanan Award finalist and was selected for the Texas vs. The Nation Bowl.
A total of 106 former student-athletes make up the 2000s All-Decade Team, including honorees from each of the 10 institutions that were football members at during the period. The Southland membership changed slightly during the decade, but the 2000s proved to be a relatively stable with the additions of new member Central Arkansas in 2007 and a returning football program at Southeastern Louisiana.
To best assess the candidate pool for the all-decade team, the Southland Conference developed a metric that analyzed numerous elements of a student-athlete's performance and value within the league at the time. Most notably, the conference honored "real-time" factors such as all-conference selection by coaches and a player's statistical performance among his peers at the time. Further, other components of selection including a player's effort toward helping his team win a championship or finish near the top of the conference, whether he earned individual honors from the league, if he participated in postseason bowls, and if he was drafted by or participated in the NFL.
The Southland Conference has recognized five all-decade teams throughout the 2013 season. The Conference will also name an all-time football team later this month.