Wide receiver Aaron Boyce, offensive tackle Chris Thomas and linebacker Zach Johnson honored on 29-player squad
A trio of Eastern Washington University football players have been selected to the Big Sky Conference preseason all-conference team selected by the media and announced by the conference office on Wednesday (July 22).
Senior wide receiver Aaron Boyce leads the trio after earning second team All-Big Sky honors as a junior and first team accolades as a sophomore when he also earned a variety of All-America honors. He is a 2005 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash.
The other two players honored were senior offensive tackle Chris Thomas and sophomore linebacker Zach Johnson, who both earned honorable mention all-league honors a year ago. Thomas is a 2005 graduate of Sumner (Wash.) High School and Johnson graduated in 2007 from Tumwater (Wash.) High School.
Boyce finished the 2008 season with 63 catches for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns, ranking 30th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in receptions per game (5.7) and 28th in reception yards per game (83.4). He enters his senior season second in school history for career catches with 183, ranking only behind the school record of 253 held by Eric Kimble (2002-05). Boyce is also fourth in touchdown catches (23) and third in receiving yards (2,696).
Thomas helped block for an Eagle offense that finished 2008 with the seventh-best passing offense in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (299.9 yards per game) and was also 24th in total offense (398.5). Johnson finished his debut season with 96 tackles and a team-high seven passes broken up, while his twin brother Matt Johnson closed the year with 83 tackles and a team-leading four interceptions as a strong safety.
Here are complete bios on all three honored players . . .
#9 Aaron Boyce
WR, 6-3, 210, Sr., Kent, Wash.
Career: He has already moved onto EWU's career lists, ranking second in catches (183), fourth in touchdown catches (23) and third in receiving yards (2,696). The only player ahead of Boyce on the career catches list is Eric Kimble (253 from 2002-05). Interestingly, all of Boyce's touchdown catches have come from Matt Nichols. Coupled with senior teammates Tony Davis and Brynsen Brown, that trio has already combined for 456 catches for 6,329 yards and 43 touchdowns in 98 games worth of experience (80 starts). Of the 43 total touchdowns Boyce, Brown and Davis have caught, all but two of them have come from Nichols (Brown and Davis each caught a TD pass from Chris Peerboom in 2006). Boyce has the second-most starts among returning players with 32, trailing only Matt Nichols with 33. 2009: Listed as a starter at wide receiver on EWU's preseason depth chart. 2008: Earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors. He ranked 31st in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in receptions per game (5.7) and was 27th in reception yards per game (83.4). Boyce equaled his 2007 performance with 10 touchdown catches in 2008 to rank eighth in school history, and his 63 catches also rank eighth. He had 13 catches against Portland State (10/13/08) to rank second in school history behind the 17 he had the year before against Montana, and he finished with 181 receiving yards against the Vikings to rank as the 14th-most in school history. He had caught just 13 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown in his first three games of the 2008 season, but in his next two he caught 22 for 316 yards and four scores. Twice he was selected as the team's offensive player of the week, including against Idaho State (9/27/08) when he caught nine passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns from Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week Matt Nichols. Boyce also earned the team honor against Weber State (11/22/08) when he closed the season with six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns in EWU's 33-26 upset victory over the Big Sky champions. In the summer, he was selected to EWU's "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team to commemorate Eastern's 100th year of football in the 2008 season. Started nine games at wide receiver. During spring practices, Boyce suffered a shoulder injury on a collision with freshman redshirt Matt Johnson in EWU's scrimmage on April 19. Four days later, a MRI revealed a partially torn labrum and the very next day he underwent successful surgery in Seattle. Johnson suffered a concussion on the play and had to miss the Red-White Spring Game the next week. 2007: Was selected to four All-America teams, including the College Sporting News "Fabulous Fifty." He was also selected to The Sports Network first team, Associated Press second team and CollegeSportsReport.com second team. Also earned first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. Started all 13 Eastern games as a wide receiver. With one of the most productive receiving seasons in school history, Boyce was 14th in receptions (6.5 per game) and sixth in receiving yards (100.6) in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics. His 85 catches ranked second all-time at EWU and his yardage total of 1,308 was fourth. His catch total ranks only behind the 87 catches Eric Kimble had in 12 games in 2005, and equals the ninth-best performance in Big Sky history. Boyce's yardage total ranks behind the 1,453 yards Kimble had in 13 games in 2004, the 1,419 Kimble had in 2005 and the 1,376 Jeff Ogden had in 14 games in 1997. Boyce had a record-breaking performance at Montana (10/6/07) and was selected by The Sports Network as the NCAA Football Championships Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week. He had the fourth-most catches in Big Sky history with a school-record 17, and finished the 24-23 loss to top-ranked Montana with 232 receiving yards to rank second in school history. Boyce, whose top yardage performance as a freshman in 2006 was 96 yards, had six 100-yard receiving performances in 2007 as he now owns four of the top 73 performances in school history. His teammates added five more 100-yard performances (plus one of 99) to give EWU a total of 11 in the 2007 season. He was the team's offensive captain against Sacramento State (10/27/07) and was the offensive player of the game versus PSU when he had six catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. He also had the team's big play of the week against Brigham Young when he caught nine passes for 135 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown catch and 61-yard reception. 2006: Started 10 games at wide receiver. He made the first start of his career in EWU's season opener at Oregon State (8/31/06). His first career touchdown catch - and the first TD pass for quarterback Matt Nichols - came against Central Washington (9/23/06). He had the team's big hit of the week against Sacramento State (9/30/06) and had the team's big play of the week against Northern Colorado (10/14/06). Was among the team's leading receivers in the spring with four catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns. 2005: Redshirted. He was the team's offensive scout team player of the week twice. HS: Graduated from Kentwood HS in 2005. He earned first team South Puget Sound League North Division honors as a wide receiver. Kentwood finished 9-3 after losing to Gonzaga Prep in the quarterfinals of the State 4A Playoffs. He was also one of the top players in the state of Washington in basketball as he earned honorable mention All-State honors from Associated Press as selected by sportswriters and broadcasters. He was the Co-MVP of the South Puget Sound League North Division and was nominated to play in the McDonald's All-American game. Boyce averaged 16.8 points and nearly eight rebounds per game as a senior, with a high of 28 in an 86-60 victory over Kentlake. He had 12 points and eight rebounds in the championship game of the State 4A Tournament as Kentwood finished the season 24-6. He was selected as a first team All-State 4A Tournament selection. As a junior, Kentwood won the State 4A title. His good friend Rodney Stuckey ('04) also attended Kentwood. Stuckey played two seasons of basketball for the Eagles and is now with the Detroit Pistons in the NBA. Personal: Born 9/26/86 in Kent, Wash. Will turn 23 the day EWU plays at Sacramento State. Communication studies major.
Year - GP - PC - Hi - Yds - Apr - Apg - TD - Lg
2006 - 11 - 35 - 7 - 471 - 13.5 - 3.2 - 3 - 37t
2007 - 13 - 85 - 17 - 1308 - 15.4 - 6.5 - 10 - 61
2008 - 11 - 63 - 13 - 917 - 14.6 - 5.7 - 10 - 53
Totals - 35 - 183 - 17 - 2696 - 14.7 - 5.2 - 23 - 61
Rushing: 2007/1-44-0 (long of 44).
100-Yard Receiving Games
232 (*17 catches, 1 TD) - Montana - 10/6/07 (#2 in school history)
186 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Sacramento State - 10/27/07 (#10 in school history)
181 (#13 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 10/4/08 (#14 in school history)
157 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Northern Arizona - 10/15/08
135 (9 catches, 3 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08
135 (9 catches, 1 TD) - Brigham Young - 10/20/07
126 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Montana State - 10/13/07
119 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
108 (6 catches, 2 TD) - Weber State - 11/22/08
107 (9 catches, 0 TD) - UC Davis - 9/15/07
*School record. #Second in school history.
#71 Chris Thomas
OL, 6-5, 300, Sr., Sumner, Wash.
Career: He has started a total of 18 games at Eastern, which will be the most for an EWU offensive linemen when the Eagles start the 2009 season. 2009: Listed as a starter at right offensive tackle on EWU's preseason depth chart. In the spring, he was presented with the Eastern Athletics Student-Athlete Advisory Council "Triple-Threat Citizen" award at the first-annual Eastern Athletics EeeWoos award show. He was honored for his athletics and academic success, as well as for his community service that included multiple blood drives he organized and volunteer work at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. 2008: Was selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team. Earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. Started all 11 games at right offensive tackle and was the team's offensive player of the week for his blocking against Montana (8/11/08). He helped block for an Eagle offense that finished with the seventh-best passing offense in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (299.9 yards per game) and was also 24th in total offense (398.5), 98th in rushing offense (98.5) and 35th in scoring offense (29.4). 2007: Named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team. Started seven games at left offensive tackle, including six-straight games from Sept. 15 to Oct. 20. He made the first start of his career against UC Davis (9/15/07). He helped Eastern rank sixth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (first in the Big Sky) with an average of 462.3 yards per game, including 626 in a 44-15 victory over McNeese State (11/24/07) in the FCS Playoffs. 2006: Named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team. Lettered as a reserve offensive lineman. 2005: Redshirted. HS: Graduated from Sumner HS in 2005. Named by the Seattle Times as a "Red Chip" selection as one of the top 34 recruits in the state of Washington. The Tacoma News Tribune selected him to its All-Area first team as an offensive lineman. Earned first team All-Puget Sound League North Division honors as an offensive lineman, and second team accolades as a defensive lineman. Nominated for All-State honors and was a National Football Foundation nominee for Scholar-Athlete Lineman of the Year. As a senior, he was team MVP and captain, and was the school's Defensive Player of the Year. He also lettered as a junior, and was the junior varsity MVP his sophomore season. His former EWU teammate Rocky Hanni ('03) also attended Sumner. Personal: Born 3/20/87 in Tacoma, Wash. Biology/pre-medicine major. Thomas hopes to become a doctor, either as an orthopedic surgeon, anesthesiologist, or primary care physician. He intends to take his Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in May 2009 and begin applying to medical schools in June. If the opportunities arise, he may try to pursue a professional football career before he attends medical school. He was born at Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, Wash. -- the same hospital former Eastern Academic All-American Dr. Steve Mattson currently works in as an anesthesiologist. Planning is underway for Thomas to spend time in summer 2009 with Mattson, who is helping serve as a protégé to help Thomas through the medical school process. Thomas' hometown of Sumner is just a short drive away from Tacoma.
#41 Zach Johnson
LB, 6-1, 215, So., Tumwater, Wash.
2009: Listed as a starter at middle linebacker on EWU's preseason depth chart. 2008: Earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. Started 10 games at strong-side inside linebacker. He and his twin brother Matt combined for 179 tackles to rank 1-2 on the team, with Zach finishing with 96 and a team-high seven passes broken up, and Matt closing the year with 83 tackles and a team-leading four interceptions. Zach, whose 96 tackles ranks 20th in school history, was third in the Big Sky (8.7 per game) and 47th nationally. He was the team's defensive player of the week against Northern Colorado (11/8/08) after he had a season-high 15 tackles and an interception in a game in which his brother added 10 tackles. A week later against Northern Arizona (11/15/08) he was chosen as the team's special teams player of the week and subsequently was one of three team co-captains the following week versus Weber State (11/22/08). He finished second on the team with eight tackles and three passes broken up in his collegiate debut against Texas Tech (9/30/08). In the same game, Matt had a team-high 10 tackles and an interception he returned 37 yards in the 49-24 loss to the 12th-ranked Red Raiders. He helped Eastern finish an impressive 11th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivison in rushing defense (93.5), as well as fifth in sacks (3.09 per game) and ninth nationally in tackles for loss (7.9 per game). 2007: Redshirted. Along with his brother Matt, he was selected as EWU's Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year. He was defensive scout team player of the week twice. HS: Graduated from Tumwater HS in 2007. Earned first team 2A All-State honors at running back and honorable mention at defensive back from the Associated Press as selected by sports editors and writers. In addition, WashingtonPreps.com selected him to its 2A All-State first team at running back and defensive back. Selected to play in the 2A/1A/2B/1B All-State Game. He was also named by the Seattle Times as a "White Chip" selection as one of the top 100 prospects in the state of Washington. He earned MVP honors as a member of The Olympian All-Area football team at running back. He was also a member of the Tacoma News Tribune All-Area squad as a defensive back. He was the MVP of the 2A Evergreen League after rushing for a school-record 1,918 yards. He also broke school records with 2,320 all-purpose yards and 28 touchdowns. On defense, he had more than 50 tackles with two interceptions, three forced fumbles and two sacks. After a season-opening loss, Tumwater won 11-straight games to advance to the semifinals of the State 2A Playoffs and finish the season 11-2. Tumwater defeated Colville and EWU recruit John Roberts 28-25 in the quarterfinals, then lost to eventual champion Lynden 20-10 in the semifinals. He scored twice, including an 82-yard reception, in the Colville game. His 1-yard run with two minutes left helped seal the victory. He finished his senior season as his team's offensive player of the year, captain and most inspirational, sharing the latter two awards with his brother Matt. Was listed among the "Seniors to Watch" on Ron Siegel's 2006 preseason All-State team. He earned first team All-Pac 9 League honors as a junior and was a second team pick as a sophomore. As a junior, he had more than 50 tackles with four forced fumbles, three sacks, more than 600 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Also played basketball and baseball at Tumwater. As a senior in baseball, he was selected to the All-Area team by The Olympian after hitting .390 with eight home runs and 26 RBI. He led his team to a district title as he and his brother Matt both had two-run home runs in an 11-10 victory over Centralia in the championship game. Both were first team All-Evergreen Conference selections as outfielders as Tumwater finished 16-6 after advancing to the first round of the State 2A Tournament. Personal: Born 7/22/89 in Olympia, Wash. Zach is the twin of his EWU teammate Matt Johnson. Major undeclared, but is considering education.
Year - GP - TT - Hi - S - TL-Yds - FF-FR - PBU - I-Yds
2008 - 11 - 96 - 15 - 2 - 11-44 - 0-0 - 7 - 1-0