Carroll Football Team versus Northern 2021

Carroll's football team prepares to run onto the field against Montana State Northern during the 2021 spring season.

HELENA — Another framed jersey will soon be added to the collection of more than 30 that are already dotting the walls of the second floor of Nelson Stadium. Step off the elevator and turn either left or right and your eyes will land on a jersey of a First-Team All-American that played at Carroll sometime in the last 20 years.

Alex Hoffman joined that group this week when the American Football Coaches Association named him to its First-Team All-America squad. That honor adds the cherry to the top of an awards-laden last two seasons for Hoffman who will leave Carroll as a two-time First-Team All-Conference selection, and now, an All-American.

“It’s well deserved for Alex,” Saints offensive coordinator Alex Pfannenstiel said. “He earned that based off of his time here and the success that he put on the field. His award finally came with team success, we were able to win a conference title and it came with it. It’s well earned, but I think he’ll be the first one to tell you, it’s his success, but it’s also the success of him and his teammates. It’ll be fun to see him put up here with all the rest of the guys because he’s at the level of the greats that have played here.”

Hoffman joins former Carroll players like Casey FitzSimmons, Tyler Emmert and Bubba Bartlett, many of which came from the dynasty that was Saints football from 2000-2010, in sharing the First-Team distinction.

With an NFL contract in his back-pocket from a recent signing with the New Orleans Saints, Hoffman also became the eighth offensive lineman to earn First-Team All-America status by a publication or association since Carroll began the tradition of honoring them with framed jerseys in Nelson Stadium.

Did you know a Montana team played in the first ever NAIA football championship game? Do you know which Montana school has the most NAIA postseason appearances of all time as of 2021? Take a look at the history of NAIA postseason football appearances by Montana teams.

“It’s awesome, you always have those memories,” Saints head coach Troy Purcell said of adding Hoffman to the group. “You go up there and talk about the greats of Carroll and the All-Americans. Adding one to the mix is quite an honor. It’s pretty special to be able to have that and I think as a player it’s always a dream. As they were recruited, they were up there and got to hear the speech of the All-Americans and being First-Team. So you get put up with a pretty good category of people.”

The AFCA has been releasing its All-American teams for the better part of a century. In that time, Carroll owns the second-longest streak -- 11-straight selections from 2005-2015 -- in the NAIA for having at least one All-American. The Saints are also second among NAIA programs with 20 different players selected as All-Americans on 22 different occasions, according to the AFCA.

Those numbers, which count only All-Americans named by the AFCA, are obviously much higher when you factor in all the Saints who earned that honor from other publications and associations over the years.

“I think it speaks to, No. 1, the team success that we’ve had,” Pfannenstiel said. “Coach Purcell always talks about the individual awards that come with team success and that’s the most important thing when these things come up. I think it speaks to the quality of the type of person that Carroll College attracts as a whole...Carroll is a pretty special place that attracts special people. That helps get, not only talented football players, but talented people to come here.”

After finishing the five-game season with 853 total all-purpose yards, sophomore running back Matthew Burgess earned Honorable Mention All-American status from the NAIA coaches this week, as well.

Burgess, who was a First-Team All-Conference pick for the second time in his career earlier this off-season, is currently fourth in the NAIA with 134.2 rushing yards per game and fifth with 170.6 all-purpose yards per contest.

“Matt did a great job for us this year and he definitely has the potential to be up here [with the first-teamers],” Pfannenstiel said. “He still has a long way left in his career, but he’s done a great job with his work ethic on and off the field and in the classroom and community. It was awesome to see him get recognized for his efforts because he’s definitely a big part of Carroll football and everything that we do.

During this recent spring season, both Hoffman and Burgess were important pieces who helped get Carroll back to the NAIA Football Championship Series for the first time since 2014. The Saints also captured a share of the Frontier Conference Championship after completing the four-game regular season at 3-1 and beating No. 6 College of Idaho.

Hoffman represents Carroll’s first, First-Team All-American since Chris Emter in 2017, while Burgess is the first Saints to get honorable mention status since Shane Sipes did so in 2019.

“What a tribute to them and how they play, and being recognized is such a great honor,” Purcell said. “It shows that the team did well, because you gotta have good players to have good teams and good teams generate good players, so I definitely think they feed off each other.”

Email Daniel Shepard at daniel.shepard@406mtsports.com or find him on Twitter @IR_DanielS.

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