The team was selected by a committee of Big South Conference administrators and a fan vote that comprised 20 percent of the overall total. The league’s first football season came in 2002 and the Big South All-Decade Team represents seasons from 2002-2009.
Gardner-Webb and Coastal Carolina tied for the most honorees with nine each. Liberty (8), Charleston Southern (6), Stony Brook (1) and VMI (1) were also represented. The Runnin’ Bulldogs won the first two Big South Conference football trophies in 2002 and 2003, posting undefeated league records in each season. Gardner-Webb finished 9-1 overall in 2002 and was ranked in each of the major I-AA polls by season’s end. The ‘Dogs posted an 8-4 overall mark in 2003.
Receiver Duvaughn Flagler (2004-07) and offensive lineman Demario Deese (2005-08) earned a spot on the All-Decade offense for Gardner-Webb.
Flagler (Norcross, Ga. / Norcross HS) finished his career with 188 career catches for 2,552 yards and 31 touchdowns – with his touchdown total still ranking second in Gardner-Webb history. Flagler was an All-America selection in 2005 and earned All-Big South honors three times.
Deese (Charlotte, N.C. / Independence HS) was was the league’s first four-time All-Big South selection on the offensive line, starting at guard for GWU as a freshman in 2005 and moving on to a successful career at tackle for his final three seasons. In addition to his All-Conference laurels, Deese earned AFCA All-America honors as a senior in 2008.
Defensive linemen Brian Johnston (2004-07) and Harold Wells (2001-04) turned in spectacular careers during their time in Boiling Springs, and both headlined Gardner-Web’s group on the All-Decade Defense.
Johnston (San Diego, Calif. / Madison HS) was the Big South’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007, earning All-America honors in each of those seasons. He was a consensus FCS All-America selection in 2007 and became the first player in Big South history to earn a spot on the Ted Hendricks Award Watch List. A Buchanan Award finalist that year, Johnston went on to be drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound end finished his career with Big South records for sacks (20.5) and tackles for loss (53.5) that still stand.
Wells (Lilburn, Ga. / Berkmar HS) played both nose guard and end for the Runnin’ Bulldogs, while also moonlighting as a fullback on the offensive side. He became the Big South Conference’s first consensus All-America selection in 2004 when he also earned the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
A three-time All-Big South Conference choice, Wells was named the Football Gazette’s Division I-AA Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2004 after leading the nation in tackles for loss that season. He finished with 22.5 tackles for loss that season, and led the team with eight rushing touchdowns at fullback. Wells finished his career with 39 tackles for loss and went on to become the all-time leading rusher for the Arena League’s Columbus Destroyers before that league disbanded.
Gardner-Webb’s strong history of success at linebacker was evident with the All-Decade squad, as Mario Brown (2005-09) and Jeffery Williams (2007-10) represented that group for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Brown (Greenville, S.C. / J.L. Mann HS) totaled 312 tackles during his time with Gardner-Webb, earning All-Big South honors three times and All-America honors in 2007. He returned after a medical redshirt in 2008 to earn Capital One Academic All-District III honors as a senior in 2009, in addition to his regular spot on the All-Big South team. Brown was also named the league’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the sport in 2009.
Williams (Frisco City, Ala. / Frisco City HS) quickly established himself as a standout in Boiling Springs, earning the league’s Freshman of the Year award in 2007 after totaling 120 hits. He earned All-America honors in 2008 as Gardner-Webb held seven of 11 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing – a group that included limiting run-happy Georgia Tech to just 79 yards in a 10-7 loss that season. Williams was named the Big South Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and earned All-Big South honors three times.
Williams finished his career with 345 total tackles, which still ranks in the top-10 in Gardner-Webb history.
Gardner-Webb cornerback Cedric McGowan (2006-10) and safety Mario Williams (2001-04) both earned positions in the All-Decade secondary.
McGowan (Greer, S.C. / Greer HS) earned All-Big South honors three times and was an All-America selection in 2007. He finished his career with 26 career pass break ups. In his one season after the All-Decade window, McGowan helped Gardner-Webb post the Big South’s first win over an FBS team when GWU knocked off Akron in overtime on September 11, 2010.
Williams (Ninety Six, S.C. / Ninety Six HS) remains one of the most decorated players, regardless of position, in both Gardner-Webb and Big South Conference history. He earned All-America honors in 2002 and 2003, when he was also the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Williams was a preseason All-America and Buchanan Award Watch List honoree in 2004, and was among the nation’s tackling leaders before a season-ending injury midway through the campaign cut his career short. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound battering ram still earned All-Big South honors that season, and finished his career with 326 career tackles – most in school history for a defensive back. Williams remains the Gardner-Webb career leader with 35 pass break ups.
Punter Graham Whitlock (2001-04) was the league’s representative on the All-Decade Team for his position, and remains at the top of the league’s career punting average chart with a mark of 42.6 yards per attempt from 2002-2004. Whitlock led the nation in punting average in 2003, when he earned All-America honors as well. Whitlock (Laurens, S.C. / Laurens HS) was a three-time All-Big South Conference selection.
Big South Football 2002-2009 All-Decade Team
QB – Collin Drafts, Charleston Southern
QB – Tyler Thigpen, Coastal Carolina
RB – Dre Barnes, Liberty
RB – Patrick Hall, Coastal Carolina
RB – Rashad Jennings, Liberty
FB – Mike Tolbert, Coastal Carolina
WR – Duvaughn Flagler, Gardner-Webb
WR – Maurice Price, Charleston Southern
WR – Jerome Simpson, Coastal Carolina
WR – Gerald Stevenson, Charleston Southern
TE – Chris Luck, Liberty
OL – Demario Deese, Gardner-Webb
OL – Mike Godsil, Liberty
OL – Eddie Pinigis, Liberty
OL – Brad Poston, Coastal Carolina
OL – Antwon Trice, Coastal Carolina
DL – Adrain Grady, Coastal Carolina
DL – Brian Johnston, Gardner-Webb
DL – Harold Wells, Gardner-Webb
DL – Dennis Justianini, Charleston Southern
LB – Mario Brown, Gardner-Webb
LB – Jada Ross, Charleston Southern
LB – Tyler Santucci, Stony Brook
LB – Jeffery Williams, Gardner-Webb
DB – Patrick Calvary, Liberty
DB – Ced McGowan, Gardner-Webb
DB – Quinton Teal, Coastal Carolina
DB – Mario Williams, Gardner-Webb
PK – Josh Hoke, Coastal Carolina
P – Graham Whitlock, Gardner-Webb
LS – Dan Pope, Liberty
RS – Dominic Bolden, Liberty
RS – Tim Maypray, VMI
RS – Gerald Stevenson, Charleston Southern
Head Coach – David Bennett, Coastal Carolina Football
All-Decade Team candidates were determined based on being at least one of the following: 1) Was a multiple All-Conference honoree; 2) Was named an All-American; 3) Is a member of the Big South Conference Hall of Fame; 4) Student-athletes must be a college graduate or left their respective institution in good academic standing; 5) and won a Conference Championship as a coach and/or was voted Conference Coach of the Year. Candidates that participated in two different decades were placed in a specific decade based on consultation from member institutions. Member institutions also had final determination in regards to inclusion of student-athletes and coaches.