From Case Western Reserve University Athletics
Case Western Reserve University senior center Gage Blair (Elyria, Ohio / St. Edward) was selected to the American Football Coaches Association All-America Second Team for his outstanding play during the 2017 season for the Spartans.
Blair becomes the first CWRU player to be named an All-American by any organization since both quarterback Dan Whalen (AFCA & D3football.com) and Tony Opperman (D3football.com) were selected in 2009. He is the 49th All-American overall in program history, and the seventh offensive lineman to earn the honor in program history, along with John Liebenthal (1982), Mark Raiff (1983-85), Mike Ciani (1986), Tim Lynch (1986), Steve Schindler (2002), and Opperman (2009).
The honor is just the latest for Blair, who was named to D3football.com All-South Region Second Team last week, marking his second-straight season claiming an all-region honor. He was named to All-Presidents' Athletic Conference First Team in 2017, becoming just the first CWRU player since the team rejoined the conference as a football affiliate member in 2014 to earn All-PAC recognition four times, and the only player in program history to claim first team recognition by the league three times. In addition, he was selected to the All-UAA First Team for the second time this season, and become one of 10 players in program history to be named to an all-association team four times.
Blair started nine games on the Spartans' offensive line, anchoring a unit that helped the Spartans score a program-record 479 points during the 2017 season. Case Western Reserve totaled 5,252 yards of offense during the year, including 3,008 passing and 2,244 rushing, while the offensive line yielded just 19 sacks in 12 games (with Blair responsible for only one). Blair played in 39 games over his career as a Spartan, starting each one.
The AFCA has selected an All-America team every year since 1945 starting with a single 11-player squad until 1967. From 1967 through 1971, two teams – University Division and College Division – were selected. In 1972, the College Division was split into College I and College II, while in 1996, the College I and College II teams were renamed Division II and Division III, respectively.
The AFCA's Division III All-America Selection Committee is made up of three head coaches from each of the AFCA's eight districts, one of whom serves as a district chairman, along with another head coach who serves as the chairman of the selection committee. The coaches in each district are responsible for ranking the top players in their respective districts prior to a conference call between the district chairmen and the committee chairman on which the team is chosen.
Blair is the third player in CWRU history to earn AFCA All-America honors, along with defensive back Bobby Bott in 2008 and Whalen in 2009.
The Spartans finished the 2017 with an 11-1 record, going a perfect 10-0 during the regular season and winning both the PAC and UAA Championships. Case Western Reserve qualified for the NCAA Division III Championships for the fourth time in program history during the campaign, and defeated Illinois Wesleyan 28-0 in the first round for the second postseason win in program history.