A dozen Aztecs snubbed from Mountain West 25th Season Team

(AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Tariq Thompson (Credit: Ernie Anderson)

On Thursday morning, the Mountain West Conference released its 25th Season Team. SDSU tied with Boise State as the most represented school. In total, seven Aztecs at eight positions were recognized. The MW honored SDSU greats RB Donnel Pumphrey, RB/KR Rashaad Penny, DB Damontae Kazee, DB Leon McFadden, LB Kirk Morrison, DL Cameron Thomas, and P Matt Araiza. Penny was the only player named to two positions. 

Like every school in the MW, SDSU could have had more players included. Below is a list of a dozen other Aztecs worthy of inclusion. They are arranged in descending order, with the biggest snub saved for last. 

12. OL William Dunkle 2018-2021

Only a pair of offensive linemen made the MW’s 25th Season Team, New Mexico OL Ryan Cook and Utah OL Jordan Gross. Dunkle deserved consideration as the third honoree. Just eight MW O-linemen all-time have made an AP All-American team. Dunkle made the list in 2021. A three-year starter, Dunkle earned honorable mention all-conference as a redshirt freshman in 2019 and earned first-team all-conference selection in 2021. 

11. DB Nat Berhe 2009-2013

Six of the seven Aztecs on the MW’s list played during the past 15 years when SDSU climbed into one of the premier programs in the conference. Before getting drafted in the 5th round by the New York Giants, Rocky Long built his 3-3-5 defense around Berhe’s unique skills. A three-time all-conference selection, Berhe finished his SDSU career with 299 tackles (197 solo). More importantly than any statistic, he laid the foundation and culture for the Aztecs’ resurgence. 

10. LS Aaron Brewer 2008-2011 

The MW made the curious decision of creating a 25th-season team while omitting a position. Long snapper, like a closer in baseball, is its own role, and there were none better than Aaron Brewer. A four-year starter, Brewer competed in 50 contests for the Red and Black. After going undrafted, Brewer signed with the Broncos and started an NFL career that continues into the present. Brewer paved the way for SDSU to become “Snapper U,” with excellent specialists Jeff Overbaugh, Turner Bernard, and current Aztec Ryan Wintermeyer following in his footsteps. 

Ronnie Hillman (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

9. OL Nico Siragusa 2012-2016

The NCAA’s all-time leading rusher, Donnel Pumphrey, made the list, but the best offensive lineman in front of him did not. A fourth-round selection by the Baltimore Ravens, Siragusa paved the way for some of the best running teams college football has ever seen. A three-year starter, he was an all-MW first selection in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, he earned All-American honors from the AP (3rd team) and USA Today (1st team).

8. RB Ronnie Hillman 2009-2011

Hillman played in only two college seasons, but his play during those campaigns should have been enough for inclusion on the team. The MW Media Guide is littered with his name. His 99-yard touchdown run against Wyoming in 2011 is the longest run in conference history. His 93-yarder against Missouri in 2010 is the longest by a MW freshman. He won MW Freshman of the Year and a pair of MW first-team selections before leaving for the NFL. He was a third-team AP All-American. 

7. WR Vincent Brown 2007-2010

Brown’s 13 100-yard receiving games is tied for fifth with the most in conference history. A two-time all-MW selection, Brown’s final statistics are equivalent to players who made the MW’s team. He finished his career with 209 receptions, 3,110 yards, and 23 touchdowns. In his four years, he never had fewer than 31 receptions. The Chargers drafted Brown in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL draft.

 6. DB Will Demps 1997-2001

Demps began his career as a walk-on before blossoming into a star for the Aztecs. He finished his career at SDSU with 229 tackles and five interceptions. He paced SDSU in 2001 in tackles (92) and, in 2000, led the team in TFLs (15). Demps was a two-time all-conference selection, earning the recognition in the first two seasons of the MW’s existence. After signing as an undrafted free agent following his SDSU career, he started 75 games across seven seasons in the NFL with Baltimore, the New York Giants, and Houston. 

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5. LB Calvin Munson 2013-2016

Muson led SDSU to back-to-back conference championships in 2015-2016. An attacking linebacker, Munson finished his career with 301 tackles (159 solo), 36.5 TFLs, 18 sacks, and six interceptions. He returned three of those picks for touchdowns, which is a school record and ranks tied for third all-time in conference history. After earning all-conference selections in three seasons, he started a seven-year NFL career that continues into the present. 

Nico Siragusa (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

4. DB Tariq Thompson 2018-2020

Tariq Thompson was the first Aztec named to the MW all-conference team in four consecutive years (first and second team). An unheralded recruit, Thompson seized the Warrior safety role as a true freshman. He paced the Aztecs with five interceptions that season and was named a freshman All-American by multiple publications. An elite playmaker, he finished his SDSU career with 220 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 12 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, and 6 fumble recoveries in 50 career starts for the Aztecs.

3. LB Russell Allen 2004-2008

Allen’s MW snubs began way before this week. Due primarily to SDSU’s 14-35 record during his time, Allen only earned all-conference recognition once, a 2007 honorable mention selection. A tackling machine, Allen is 3rd all-time in SDSU history with 375 tackles. On October 13, 2007, he had 22 tackles against Utah. Russell was an Academic All-MW each year on The Mesa. An undrafted free agent signed by Jacksonville in 2009, he started 44 games across a five-year NFL career. 

2. QB Ryan Lindley 2007-2011

Lindley’s exclusion from the 25th Season Team is peculiar because his name is all over the record books at the games’ most important position. He ranks in the conference’s top five in passing yards (12,690), passing attempts (1,732), completions (961), individual passing games (528 against Utah in 2010), Passing TDs (90), and consecutive 3,000-yard seasons. SDSU’s leader, who bridged the tenures of Chuck Long, Brady Hoke, and Rocky Long, Lindley cemented his legacy as the QB to take SDSU from laughing stock to contender.  After his college career, the Arizona Cardinals selected him in the 6th round. 

1. J.R. Tolver 1998-2002

The 2012 Aztecs Hall of Fame inductee deserved inclusion on the MW’s list for his senior season alone. In 2002, Tolver pulled in 128 receptions for 1,785 yards. The 1,785 continues to be a conference record. The 128 receptions is second all-time (FSU’s Davante Adams 131).  Among other records, Tolver is fifth all-time in receiving yards (3,572), second in career receptions (262), second in the most 200-yard games in a season and career (2), and third in most receptions in a game (18). A two-time all-conference performer, Tolver owns the two most explosive receiving games in MW history. In 2002, he had 296 yards against Arizona State and 283 yards against Hawai’i. 

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