CHICAGO – JANUARY 13, 2019 –Stats Perform, the revolutionary leader in sports AI and data, congratulates all the winners and nominees of the 2019 Stats Perform FCS Awards, presented during an awards banquet in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, January 10. The legacy awards recognize standout players and coaches of Division I football’s subdivision, with past winners representing a cross-section of NFL stars.
This year’s Stats Perform FCS Award winners and nominees include:
- The Stats Perform FCS Walter Payton Award: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State. The award is given to the FCS offensive player of the year with the North Dakota State redshirt freshman becoming the first rookie recipient. Lance took on the difficult assignment of replacing Easton Stick, the winningest quarterback in FCS history, at North Dakota State and led the team to a 16-0 record and the national championship over James Madison on Saturday, January 11. Lance finished the season completing 192 of 287 passes for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns without an interception, ranking No. 1 in the FCS in pass efficiency rating (180.6) and No. 5 in completion percentage (66.9). The dual-threat also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. Runner-ups for the award include Case Cookus, QB, Northern Arizona; Pete Guerriero, RB, Monmouth; and Kevin Thomson, QB, Sacramento State.
- The Stats Perform FCS Buck Buchanan Award: Dante Olson, LB, Montana. The award is given the FCS defensive player of the year with the 6-foot-3, 240-pound redshirt senior leading the FCS in tackles per game (12.8) for the second consecutive season, setting Big Sky Conference and Montana single-season records with 179 tackles. The two-time first-team All-American had 10 or more tackles in 10 of 14 games this season, adding 11 tackles for loss, 3½ sacks, two takeaways and two forced fumbles. He helped lead Montana to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Runner-ups for the award include Ron’Dell Carter, DE, James Madison; Sully Laiche, DE, Nicholls; and Zach Hall, LB, Southeast Missouri.
- The Stats Perform FCS Eddie Robinson Award: Troy Taylor, Sacramento State. The award is given to the coach of the year with the first-year head coach leading his program to nine regular-season wins, a share of the Big Sky Conference title, and FCS playoff qualification—all firsts for the program. The former star quarterback at Cal is recognized as an innovative play-caller, leading his team to only two losses to FCS teams during a regular season that was highlighted by three straight wins over nationally ranked opponents—traditional Big Sky powers Eastern Washington, Montana State and Montana. Sacramento State ended the regular season ranked No. 3 under Taylor. Runner-ups for the award include Matt Entz, North Dakota State; Mark Hudspeth, Austin Peay; and Kevin Callahan, Monmouth.
- The Stats Perform FCS Jerry Rice Award: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State. The award is given to the freshman of the year, with Lance taking home both the Stats Perform FCS Jerry Rice Award and the Stats Perform FCS Walter Payton Award. Lance is also the first freshman to receive the MVFC’s offensive player of the year award and paired his elite passing with a strong ground game, averaging 242.9 yards of total offense per game and accounting for 42 touchdowns. His historic season was capped off with a win against James Madison in the national title game this past Saturday. Runner-ups for the award include Jeff Undercuffler, QB, UAlbany; Javon Williams Jr., RB, Southern Illinois; and Tristan Wheeler, LB, Richmond.
- The Stats Perform FCS Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete Award: Alex Pechin, P, Bucknell. The award is given to the student-athlete who excels not only on the field and in the classroom, but in the community and beyond. On the field, Pechin averaged an FCS-high 47.3 yards in his final season, helping Bucknell also rank No. 1 nationally in net punting yards (43.4). In the classroom, Pechin carries a 3.90 grade point average as he finished off a biomedical engineering and management for engineers double major at Bucknell. On top of a bright potential future in the NFL, he aspires to bring advancements in the medical field. The Doris Robinson Award includes one finalist from each of the 13 FCS conferences.
“This year’s banquet was highlighted by emotional speeches across the spectrum of recipients and representatives, showing a pure and unparalleled passion for sport that makes the FCS so unique and our company such a perfect partner,” Stats Perform vice president of global operations Brian Orefice said. “We are committed to raising the bar of the event every year, and this one certainly did not disappoint. We look forward to continue following these exceptional student-athletes and coaches at the FCS level and beyond.”
Founded by Mickey Charles of The Sports Network, the annual honors date back to 1987, when the Payton Award was presented to running back Kenny Gamble of Colgate and the Eddie Robinson Award went to Mark Duffner of Holy Cross. Since then, the names of future NFL stars like Steve McNair, Brian Westbrook and Tony Romo have been called up to accept the Payton Award, which is often referred to as the “Heisman of the FCS.” Last season, Samford’s Devlin Hodges won the award before becoming an undrafted free agent signing of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Buchanan Award was first presented in 1995 and includes notable FCS alums Dexter Coakley and Jared Allen. Current Los Angeles Rams standout receiver Cooper Kupp is a past recipient of the Payton Award as well as the Rice Award, which was first handed out in 2011. The Doris Robinson Award, named for the wife of legendary Grambling State head coach Eddie Robinson, was introduced in 2015 to honor service to the community and excellence in academics.
The same national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers, and other dignitaries who select the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 poll – numbering over 150 voters – choose the award winners.