Cole Kelley tabbed runner-up in repeat attempt for Walter Payton Award

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Cole Kelley

FRISCO, Texas – After one of the finest statistical seasons in the history of the FCS, Southeastern Louisiana University senior quarterback Cole Kelley finished second in the voting for the 2021 Stats Perform FCS Walter Payton Award, which was announced at the FCS National Awards banquet Friday night at the Embassy Suites Dallas-Frisco Hotel Convention Center and Spa.

Kelley, who won the 2020 honor after the season played this past spring, was vying to become the third student-athlete to win the honor in consecutive seasons. Kelley was looking to join former Sam Houston quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe (2016, 2017) and Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards (2008, 2009) as two-time winners of the award.

Eastern Washington senior quarterback Eric Barriere, who was the runner-up to Kelley for the 2020 award, claimed the FCS version of the Heisman on Friday. Barriere finished with 201 points, while Kelley was second with 163. ETSU running back Quay Holmes, who joined Barriere and Kelley at Friday’s banquet, finished third with 93 points.

A season after becoming the third Southland Conference student-athlete to claim the prestigious honor, Kelley was even better in his final campaign in the green and gold. In his third season in Hammond, he threw for 5,124 yards and 44 touchdowns on 406-for-552 passing (73.6 completion percentage), while also rushing for a team-high 491 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Kelley leads the FCS in passing yards, total offense, completion percentage and points responsible for, as his 60 total touchdowns (44 passing, 16 rushing) were one off the single-season FCS record set by Willie Totten in 1984. Kelley’s single-season totals for passing yards (2nd), total offense (5,615 yards, 3rd) and passing touchdowns (10th) were all among the best performances in the history of FCS football.

Kelley’s 72.1 career completion percentage (685-for-950) during his time at Southeastern is a new FCS standard (minimum 750 pass attempts). In 33 games for the Lions, Kelley set new program career records with 8,602 passing yards, 9,339 yards of total offense, 70 passing touchdowns, 33 rushing touchdowns and 105 touchdowns responsible for (70 passing, 33 rushing, two receiving).

2021 marked the 35th year of the prestigious Walter Payton Award. Notable past Walter Payton Award recipients include Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, Jimmy Garoppolo, Cooper Kupp and Trey Lance.

At the national banquet, Stats Perform also presented the Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year) to Florida A&M defensive end Isaiah Land, the Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year) to Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) to Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year to Southern Illinois offensive lineman Zeveyon Furcron.

All-Time Walter Payton Award Winners
2021: Eric Barriere, QB, Eastern Washington
2020: Cole Kelley, QB, Southeastern
2019: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
2018: Devlin Hodges, QB, Samford
2017: Jeremiah Briscoe, QB, Sam Houston State
2016: Jeremiah Briscoe, QB, Sam Houston State
2015: Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
2014: John Robertson, QB, Villanova
2013: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
2012: Taylor Heineke, QB, Old Dominion
2011: Bo Levi Mitchell, QB, Eastern Washington
2010: Jeremy Moses, QB, Stephen F. Austin
2009: Armanti Edwards, QB, Appalachian State
2008: Armanti Edwards, QB, Appalachian State
2007: Jayson Foster, QB, Georgia Southern
2006: Ricky Santos, QB, New Hampshire
2005: Erik Meyer, QB, Eastern Washington
2004: Lang Campbell, QB, William & Mary
2003: Jamaal Branch, RB, Colgate
2002: Tony Romo, QB, Eastern Illinois
2001: Brian Westbrook, RB, Villanova
2000: Louis Ivory, RB, Furman
1999: Adrian Peterson, RB, Georgia Southern
1998: Jerry Azumah, RB, New Hampshire
1997: Brian Finneran, WR, Villanova
1996: Archie Amerson, RB, Northern Arizona
1995: Dave Dickenson, QB, Montana
1994: Steve McNair, QB, Alcorn State
1993: Doug Nussmeir, QB, Idaho State
1992: Michael Payton, QB, Marshall
1991: Jamie Martin, QB, Weber State
1990: Walter Dean, RB, Grambling
1989: John Friesz, QB, Idaho
1988: Dave Meggett, RB, Towson State
1987: Kenny Gamble, RB, Colgate

2021 Walter Payton Award Voting Results
A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point.
1. Eric Barriere, QB, Eastern Washington: 24-18-1-3-0=201
2. Cole Kelley, QB, Southeastern: 16-11-7-8-2=163
3. Quay Holmes, RB, ETSU: 4-2-13-11-4=93
4. Cole Johnson, QB, James Madison: 4-6-9-5-5=86
5. Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State: 1-3-7-4-8=54
6. Cameron Ward, QB, UIW: 0-2-3-4-2=28
7 (tie). Xavier Gipson, WR, Stephen F. Austin: 0-1-2-3-5=21
7 (tie). Isaiah Ifanse, RB, Montana State: 0-3-0-3-3=21
9. Aqeel Glass, QB, Alabama State: 1-2-0-0-2=15
10 (tie). Trevor Penning, LT, Northern Iowa: 0-1-1-1-1=10
10 (tie). Jason Shelley, QB, Missouri State: 0-0-2-0-4=10
12 (tie). Keon Howard, QB, UT Martin: 0-0-1-1-3=8
12 (tie). Eric Schmid, QB, Sam Houston: 0-0-1-1-3=8
14 (tie). BJ Byrd, WR, Morehead State: 0-1-0-1-1=7
14 (tie). Xavier Shepherd, QB, Kennesaw State: 0-0-0-2-3=7
14 (tie). Liam Welch, QB, Samford: 0-0-1-2-0=7
17 (tie). Juwan Carter, QB, Norfolk State: 0-0-0-1-1=3
17 (tie). Tim DeMorat, QB, Fordham: 0-0-1-0-0=3
19. Jake Chisholm, RB, Dayton: 0-0-0-1-0=2
20 (tie). Dai’Jean Dixon, WR, Nicholls: 0-0-0-0-1=1
20 (tie). Malik Grant, RB, Sacred Heart: 0-0-0-0-1=1
20 (tie). E.J. Perry, QB, Brown: 0-0-0-0-1=1
23 (tie). Davis Cheek, QB, Elon: 0-0-0-0-0=0
23 (tie). Geno Hess, RB, Southeast Missouri: 0-0-0-0-0=0
23 (tie). Tyler Hudson, WR, Central Arkansas: 0-0-0-0-0=0

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