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Sierra alumus named NAIA All-American

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Sierra alumus named NAIA All-American

Former Sierra standout Stephen Thayer gets focused for a game with the Missouri Valley College football team.

Photo contributed/


POSTED December 20, 2016 12:19 a.m.

The postseason accolades continue to pour in for 2011 Sierra High graduate Stephen Thayer.

The defensive standout for the Missouri Valley College football team was recently named to the American Football Coaches Association/National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Coaches’ All-America Team. 

Thayer set the school’s single-season record for tackles with 111 in his senior campaign, including 21.5 that went for losses. The 5-foot-9, 202-pound linebacker also had 11 sacks and two forced fumbles. He was named the Heart of America Athletic Conference Southern Division Co-Defensive Player of the Year while earning a spot on the all-division first team.

“I was pretty proud of myself after I made all-conference first team, but then a week later I was dominated for Defensive Player of the Year and I felt really accomplished,” Thayer said. He’s back home for winter break.

“To get All-America is a huge honor.”

That’s not all.

Thayer’s been nominated for the Cliff Harris Award, which goes to the top defensive player in the NCAA Division II-III and NAIA ranks.

Thayer helped the Vikings compile a 4-1 conference record and 9-3 overall. They lost to eventual champion St. Francis (Ind.) in the opening round of the NAIA Football Championship Series.

“The level of competition I faced in my two years at Missouri Valley was similar to what I saw at MJC (Modesto Junior College) but a lot faster,” Thayer said. “There are a lot of guys on the team from Texas, Florida and California, but when we see a team like Morningside or Southern Oregon that’s where you see a lot of the talent from this area. You can definitely see who sticks out. It’s a tougher game at that level.”

Thayer attributes his success to the offseason work he put in with Team Elevate Crossfit 209 Sport in Stockton. He was already a gifted athlete to begin. On top of being a productive free safety for the Sierra football team during his high school days, he was also one of the area’s best track athletes. He was part of the school’s first-ever 4x100 relay team to qualify for the CIF State Championships after its runner-up finish in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters finals. Thayer was later a dual-sport athlete for MJC.

“I think it really prepared me for this year,” Thayer said of his time at Team Elevate Crossfit 209 Sport. “I’ve always been decent in football but this year it really sparked for me. I had a phenomenal year.”

Thayer plans on graduating next semester with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in sociology.

His football career may not be over yet.

Thayer is getting ready to put his talents on display for NFL scouts in a combine tryout in Alabama and a regional combine in Chicago. He has already been contacted by teams from the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League.

“I’m just trying to stay humble but at the same time I’m keeping my goals high,” Thayer said. “I’ve been able to accomplish most of them, but I have keep working hard and grind it out.

“It’s been a good few years since I left Sierra and MJC,” Thayer added. “I had to move out and learn what life is all about, and that was one of the best things to come out of it. When you’re out on your own there’s going to be adversity, but as long as you can work around it you can still make something of yourself. I want to open up some eyes for some of the younger kids in the Manteca area. The message I want to get across is that you can have struggles like I did growing up but you can still make it.”

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