A quartet of Illinois State football senior standouts head into their final year with preseason accolades, as Drew Himmelman, Romeo McKnight, Devin Taylor, and Christian Uphoff were each named to the 2020 HERO Sports FCS Preseason All-America Team announced Thursday.
Himmelman and McKnight were honored as First Team selections, with Taylor landing a spot on the Second Team and Uphoff earning a place on the Third Team.
Himmelman earned First Team FCS All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association, STATS FCS, and The Associated Press last season and was named a third-team All-America selection by HERO Sports. The Geneseo native was also selected as an MVFC First Team all-conference and all-academic pick and was chosen as an FCS ADA Academic All-Star. A two-time MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week selection in 2019, Himmelman started all 15 games at left tackle for the Redbirds and graded out at over 90 percent for the season. He helped lead the way for the league’s leading rusher James Robinson, who recorded 1,899 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground as the Redbirds marched to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.
McKnight spearheaded a dominant Redbird defense that ranked in the Top 10 in eight national defensive categories, including team sacks with 52, which also ranked No. 2 in all of NCAA Division I football. The Crystal Lake product was a 2019 All-MVFC First Team selection at defensive end and ranked fourth in the league in sacks (12.0) and TFLs (16.5). He added 64 tackles, including 36 solo stops, and was also credited with two forced fumbles, two pass breakups, and 10 quarterback hurries on the year. McKnight was dominant in the second-round playoff win at Central Arkansas, recording seven tackles and three sacks to help ISU advance to the FCS quarterfinals.
Taylor was named a third-team FCS All-American by Phil Steele.com and was a 2019 All-MVFC First Team selection at cornerback. The Lansing, Michigan, native led the MVFC with 24 passes defended, including a league-high 19 pass breakups, and finished the season ranked No. 6 in the FCS in passes defended with 1.6 per game last season. His 24 passes defended were one shy of the ISU single-season record of 25 set by Sam Young in 1999. Taylor led ISU and tied for third in the MVFC with five interceptions and was fifth on the team with 65 stops on the year. He was named the MVFC Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded his team-leading third interception and finished with a career-high five pass breakups in a win over Missouri State that secured a playoff berth for the Redbirds.
Uphoff started all 15 games at free safety for the Redbirds and ranked fourth on the team with 70 total tackles last season. The Washington product tied for third on the squad with two interceptions and added seven pass breakups to bolster a dominant defensive backfield for the ‘Birds. Uphoff, a 2018 All-MVFC Honorable Mention selection, recorded 5.5 tackles for loss last year and finished the regular season strong with a career-high nine tackles and 3.5 TFLs at Youngstown State. He also averaged 29.5 yards per kick return on six attempts, with a long of 59 yards, and heads into his final season as the school’s career leader with an average of 27.06 yards per kick return.