CFB: USF's Gabe Watson Named Don Hansen 1st Team All-American

BROOKFIELD, Ill. – Gabriel Watson of the University of Sioux Falls Football Team has been named to the first team offense at running back and Hakeem Johnson named a honorable mention defensive back on the Don Hansen NCAA Division II All-America Team. With the selection of Watson, USF has had an All-American on the Don Hansen Team for five straight years.

Watson, who was earlier named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Player of the Year, the D2 CCA Super Region 4 Offensive Player of the Year and Don Hansen Super Region Four Offensive Player of the Year, and a Harlon Hill Award finalist, earned selection to his fifth All-American Team (Don Hansen,, AFCA, Associated Press and D2 Conference Commissioner's Association). Johnson, a sophomore cornerback, was a second team all-region honoree and named Honorable Mention All-American by the Don Hansen Committee.

The Don Hansen team carries out the legacy of long-time small college football advocate Don Hansen, who passed away at age 75 on Aug. 29, 2010. Hansen, from Brookfield, Ill., started and published Don Hansen's National Weekly Football Gazette for three decades, selecting NCAA Division II All-America teams for the first time in 1988. Don Hansen's Football Gazette began selecting Division II All-Region squads in 2003.

A 6-1, 221-pound running back, Watson of Piedmont, Calif., led NCAA DII in three rushing or scoring categories. Watson finished fifth in the voting for the Harlon Hill Trophy as the DII Player of the Year. Watson was the first student-athlete at USF to advance into the Harlon Hill finalist group. He had a school-record 11 straight games of 100 yards or more rushing while accumulating a regular season NCAA-high and USF single season mark of 1,957 yards (second overall) on 269 carries with an NCAA DII-high 26 TDs. In setting eight school records this year, Watson owns the top per game average of 177.8 yards per carry in DII, which is also a USF school record. Of players with 200 carries or more, Watson has the top per rush average of 7.41. The 1,957 yards rushing by Watson broke Max Mickey's school record of 1,764 of 2016. Watson's 26 touchdowns is the most in a single season in USF's DII history and second overall (David Ruter, 29 TDs, 1988).

In 2018, Watson had 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the first game he played at USF, which was a 27-24 win over Concordia-St. Paul in the home opener. A junior exercise science major, Watson followed up that opening game performance with games of 172 yards and 193 yards. Against Minot State, he accumulated 205 yards rushing on 15 carries with two touchdowns and played just one half. Watson had a breakout season in his first year with USF. The first-team All-NSIC honoree was named the National Player of the Week after setting a single game USF rushing record of 320 yards on 19 carries with five TDs against MSU Moorhead. A three-time NSIC Player of the Week, he recorded seven games of 150 yards or more with three games of at least 200 yards or more. Watson scored two or more TDs in a game eight times and had at least three TDs four times.

Johnson, who was named second team on the Don Hansen All-Super Region Four Team, earned his first Honorable Mention All-American honor. This past fall, the Remington, Va., native, earned first-team All-NSIC honors on defense after recording 25 tackles with 15 solo stops. One of the league's top cover corners, Johnson had an interception, five pass breakups and six passes defended. He continually shut down top opposing receivers. He had three or more tackles in five games with a high of four against Southwest Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and MSU Moorhead. He also had an interception against Winona State.