Manny Patterson (center) of the University of Maine celebrates with teammates Deshawn Stevens (47) and Taji Lowe (50) after breaking up a pass during their Aug. 30 game against New Hampshire in Orono. Credit: Courtesy of Peter Buehner

Three University of Maine football players, who led a stout defensive unit that was instrumental in the team’s first-ever appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision national semifinals, have been named to the 2019 HERO Sports FCS preseason All-America team.

Cornerback Manny Patterson was a first-team selection, linebacker Deshawn Stevens was a second-team choice and defensive end Kayon Whitaker was a third-teamer.

Patterson and Whitaker will be seniors and Stevens will be a junior this fall.

“This is great for the kids and great for our program,” UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said. “They all deserve it.”

UMaine’s defense was first among 124 FCS schools in rush defense, allowing just 79.2 yards per game. It was second in the FCS in tackles for loss (117) and total sacks (47), fourth in sacks per game (3.36), ninth in third down conversion defense (28.4 percent conversion rate) and 17th in yards allowed per game (313.1).

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Patterson led the Colonial Athletic Association in pass breakups with 22 and was third in the country among 124 teams in pass break-ups per game (1.57). He was also third in passes defended per game (1.8) which combines pass breakups and interceptions.

Patterson had three interceptions with two coming in FCS playoff games at Weber State (Utah) in the quarterfinals and at Eastern Washington in the semifinals.

He started all 14 games and was involved in 47 tackles, including a career-best six tackles in games against Jacksonville State, Weber State and at Football Bowl Subdivision Western Kentucky.

The native of Baltimore, Maryland, was an All-CAA first team selection, an All-ECAC second teamer and an All-New England selection.

Patterson has appeared in all 35 games during his career and has started 33 of the 35.

“He is the best defensive back in the league and in the country at our level,” Charlton said. “He is a legitimate NFL prospect.”

The 6-1, 250-pound Stevens led the team in tackles with 120 en route to All-CAA second-team honors including 17 for loss and nine sacks. The Toronto native recovered two fumbles and forced one, and also had an interception. He was ranked third in the CAA and 48th nationally with 8.6 tackles per game and was fifth-best among conference leaders in tackles for loss per game (1.2). Stevens ranked fifth in the CAA in total sacks (9.0), sixth in sacks per game (0.64), and second in tackles for loss and tackles for loss per game (1.21).

“Deshawn is outstanding. He made a lot of plays for us,” Charlton said.

Whitaker was an All-CAA first team selection and second team All-ECAC after tying teammate Sterling Sheffield for third in the CAA in sacks (9.5) and sacks per game (.68).

The Washington, D.C., native was involved in 50 tackles, including 11.5 for loss, and forced two fumbles. He also had five quarterback hurries and a pass break-up.

“Kayon puts his head down and goes. He is multifaceted. He does a lot of things for us,” Charlton said.