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Published: Thursday, 12/3/2009

Rockets' Church makes history


Barry Church may not have accomplished everything he set out to do in his playing career at the University of Toledo, but he now sits in elite company.

The Rockets senior defensive back collected All-Mid American Conference football first-team honors yesterday for the fourth consecutive year, becoming only the third player ever to achieve that feat.

Bowling Green quarterback Brian McClure (1982-85) and Ohio punter Dave Zastudil (1998-2001) are the other two players to receive that distinction, which is voted on by the league's coaches, four years in a row.

Also on the All-MAC first team were UT senior receiver Stephen Williams and Bowling Green

senior receiver Freddie Barnes.

Williams finished his career as UT's career leader in receptions (229) and receiving yards (3,102).

Barnes has the most receptions in the nation this season.

A native of Pittsburgh, Church led UT with 8 1/2 tackles for a loss, six quarterback hurries and three blocked kicks this season, which saw the Rockets finish with a 5-7 record. He also was second on the team with 98 tackles.

"It's amazing," Church said yesterday. "When I first came to Toledo, I didn't picture this at all. I just hopefully wanted to get on the field and earn a starting spot. After the career I've had, I'm just proud of myself and I'm sure my family is too."

Church started every single game in his UT career - 48 to be exact - totaling 354 tackles, 26 tackles for a loss, nine interceptions, and six forced fumbles.

He becomes only the second UT player to earn All-MAC accolades four straight years after offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, who now plays for the New England Patriots, did so from 2001-04.

UT coach Tim Beckman, who was on the road recruiting yesterday, issued a statement commending Church.

"To be the first Rocket ever and just the third player in MAC history to make first-team All-MAC four times is just an incredible accomplishment," Beckman said. "The whole Rocket family is very proud of Barry Church. He is very deserving of all the recognition he has received. He has been a great Rocket and now we wish him well as he looks forward to his future in professional football."

Tom Amstutz, Church's former coach at UT, said the defensive playmaker could have a prosperous career at the next level.

"I think he'll be drafted and have a chance to play in the NFL for as long as he wants to do it," Amstutz said. "He has a special ability to find the football and make plays. I'm very proud of him. He's a great young man and he still has a big future left in football."

Church said he will begin training in Los Angeles Dec. 17 to get ready for the NFL scouting combine in February.

He will also get a chance to showcase himself in front of NFL scouts when he participates in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23 in Orlando, Fla., and hopes to be selected for the Senior Bowl to be played Jan. 30 in Mobile, Ala.

Talent evaluators will like what they see when they watch Church, Amstutz said.

"He has great ball awareness," Amstutz said. "He has great instincts for the game. He has toughness, quickness, size. He has everything you'd want on the defensive side of the ball."

Although his future is bright, Church has some regrets when he looks back on his career at UT.

The Rockets never had a winning season in Church's four years, and the defenses he was a part of consistently ranked near the bottom of the MAC.

"All these individual accolades, they're all good and everything," Church said, "but I rather would have had at least one or two winning seasons and a championship ring before I left. Not accomplishing that, it really hurts. I always wanted to win a championship and have a winning year and go to a bowl game. But I'm sure the program is going to keep building and I'm sure there's going to be championships in the near future."

Also earning All-MAC recognition were freshman receiver and Springfield graduate Eric Page (second team), senior running back DaJuane Collins (third team), senior kicker Alex Steigerwald (third team) and junior linebacker Archie Donald (third team).

BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green State University senior Freddie Barnes, the nation's leading receiver, was named All-Mid-American Conference first team yesterday.

BG tight end Jimmy Scheidler was named to the second team, while quarterback Tyler Sheehan and offensive lineman Shane Steffy were third team.

Barnes, who is a Biletnikoff finalist, leads the nation with 138 receptions and a 16 touchdown catches. He is third in the country in reception yards with 1,551. Among his season's highlights was a 22-catch effort (one short of an NCAA single-game record) for 278 yards, including three touchdowns, in a 36-35 victory over Kent State.

The wideout is four receptions shy of matching the NCAA single-season record as BG awaits to see if it will play in a bowl game.

Barnes earned All-MAC third team honors as a sophomore.

Scheidler, a senior, caught 25 passes for 304 yards.

Sheehan earned third-team honors for the second time in his career after completing a school-record 340 of 528 pass attempts for 3,664 yards, which ranks third-best in school history. The senior threw 23 touchdowns this season, and has thrown a TD pass in 21 straight games. He passed for a school-record 505 yards against Kent State.

Steffy, a senior, started nine games at left guard and three at center. He anchored an offensive line that allowed just 26 sacks as the Falcons ranked among the top passing teams in the country.

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