Western’s Wilson closes career with All-American nod

Montana Western linebacker A.J. Wilson closed his career in style.

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound linebacker from Helena was named to the American Football Coaches Association 2015 AFCA NAIA Coaches’ All-American Team, which was released this morning.

Earlier, Wilson was named the Frontier Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Following the best season in over a decade for the University of Montana Western Bulldog football team – a 7-3 record and a third place conference finish – Wilson helped propel the Dawgs all the way a No. 10 national ranking as the captain of the Bulldogs stalwart defensive unit.

The stingy Bulldog defense led the Frontier Conference in rush defense per game (104.6 yards) and were second in defensive scoring per game (17.2 points) and total defense per game (340 yards). They were not only at the top of the conference, but the NAIA as well – No. 7 in rush defense per game, No. 9 in scoring defense per game and No. 14 in sacks per game (2.8).

The AFCA’s NAIA All-American Selection Committee is made up of three head coaches from each of the AFCA’s seven districts. The coaches are responsible for ranking the top players in their respective districts.

During the season, Wilson racked up a team-high 73 total tackles – 45 solo and 28 assisted – 9 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and most impressive, 3 defensive touchdowns.

All three touchdowns came in the Bulldogs first game of the season, a 49-6 rout of Rocky Mountain College. He returned two fumbles and one interception for a touchdown, he also intercepted an additional pass to earn Frontier Conference Player of the Week honors.

Wilson also earned Frontier Conference Player of the Week honors in their second game of the season, a 24-20 victory over College of Idaho.

On top of the early mentioned awards, the All-American selection was a first for Wilson as he was a second team all-conference performer a season ago and was named an American Football Network preseason NAIA All-American heading into the 2015 campaign.

In 39 career games as a Bulldog, Wilson totaled 233 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and five interceptions. Wilson finished just 1.5 tackles for loss away from a Montana Western school record.

“Compliments to A.J. and all his hard-work and dedication,” Western head coach B.J. Robertson said. “We constantly talk about what a student of the game he is and we’re excited to have our second consecutive All-American selection.”

Safety Jesse McCloud was named a First-Team AFCA All-American last season for the Bulldogs who collected their second consecutive defensive All-American.

“A.J. came to Montana Western with a plan to leave the program better than he found it, which is something he did through his leadership on and off the field” Robertson said.

The Bulldogs were just 2-9 before Wilson stepped on campus, the next two seasons the Bulldogs finished with identical 4-6 records before helping lead his team to a 7-3 record in his final season on the field.

Wilson will graduate in the spring of 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in K-12 health and physical education.

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