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Top ten contenders for 2019-20 FCS Walter Payton Award

First awarded in 1987, twenty-one of the previous thirty-two Walter Payton Award recipients, including fourteen of the last fifteen, have been quarterbacks.

(Duquesne University)

While a dozen or more other offensive players are probably deserving of mention, here’s an alphabetical look at The Fanatic’s ten leading contenders for the 2019-20 FCS Walter Payton Award. 

Named after legendary running back Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears, the annual award is given to the most outstanding offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision and is decided by a national panel consisting of more than 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. Voting is conducted prior to the FCS Playoffs and is based strictly on a player’s regular-season performance.

Long regarded as the Heisman Trophy of the Football Championship Subdivision, this year’s winner will be announced from among three finalists on January 10th, on the eve of the FCS national championship game in Frisco, Texas.  

A two-time FCS All-American, Payton rushed for 3,600 total yards and scored 63 touchdowns in four years at Jackson State.






Former Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges, who threw for an FCS career record-setting 14,854 yards and 111 touchdowns during his four-year collegiate career, was the winner of last year’s award, beating out fellow finalists Easton Stick of North Dakota State and Chandler Burks of Kennesaw State.

First awarded in 1987, twenty-one of the previous thirty-two Walter Payton Award recipients, including fourteen of the last fifteen, have been quarterbacks. 

Eastern Washington’s Eric Barriere, Towson’s Tom Flacco, Alcorn State’s prolific Noah Johnson, Jacksonville State signal caller Zerrick Cooper and explosive Jake Maier of UC Davis are probably the leading contenders among the nation’s FCS quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season, but if the honor goes to a non-quarterback this year — something that hasn’t happened since 2015 when wide receiver Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington plucked the award from the traditional QB recipients — our money is on Duquesne’s dazzling running back A. J. Hines.

Eric Barriere, Eastern Washington, Quarterback, Redshirt Junior

A double-threat, the redshirt junior set a school and FCS playoff record with a mind-boggling seven touchdown passes against Maine in a stunning 50-19 rout of the defensive-minded Black Bears in last year’s FCS semifinals.

Zerrick Cooper, Jacksonville State, Quarterback, Redshirt Junior

The highly-touted Clemson transfer threw 32 touchdown passes during his inaugural season for the Gamecocks last season.


Towson Tigers quarterback Tom Flacco (Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire)

Tom Flacco, Towson, Quarterback, Redshirt Senior

The Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year, Walter Payton finalist and younger brother of the NFL’s Joe Flacco led all FCS quarterbacks in total offense last season, averaging 332.8 yards per game.

Chase Fourcade, Nicholls State, Quarterback, Senior

The 2018 Southland Conference Player of the Year passed for 2,447 yards while tossing seventeen touchdown passes last season.

A.J. Hines, Duquesne, Running Back, Senior

An FCS All-America first team selection, the dynamic 5-11, 225-pound senior rushed for 1,520 yards — the third most in the country — while tallying 17 touchdowns for the Iron Dukes in 2018.

Cade Johnson, South Dakota State, Wide Receiver, Redshirt Junior

Johnson had 67 receptions for 1,332 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.






Noah Johnson, Alcorn State, Quarterback, Redshirt Senior

A Walter Payton Award finalist last year, Johnson is a genuine dual-threat who rushed for 1,080 yards and passed for 2,207 more in 2018.

Jake Maier, UC Davis, Quarterback, Redshirt Senior

One of the best quarterbacks in the nation, the redshirt senior tossed a jaw-dropping 34 touchdown passes while throwing for 3,391 yards for the high-scoring Aggies last year.

 Caylin Newton, Howard, Quarterback, Junior

The younger brother of the NFL’s Cam Newton, Caylin produced a staggering 3,133 yards of total offense last season, including tossing 22 touchdown passes.

James Robinson, Illinois State, Running Back, Senior

The All-America tailback led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in rushing yards last season, averaging 117.3 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry, and rushed for 184 yards on 22 carries while scoring two touchdowns in a stunning 35-19 victory over FBS foe Colorado State while finishing the year with a career-high 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Youngstown State in the season finale.






Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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