SLU’s Cole Kelley named Finalist for Walter Payton Award

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Cole Kelley
(Photo: Randy Bergeron)

HAMMOND, La. – Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley was named one of 16 finalists for the 2020-21 Walter Payton Award, Stats Perform announced on Monday.

The Walter Payton Award is presented annually to the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Kelley is the third Lion quarterback to be named a candidate for the award, joining Martin Hankins (2004) and Bryan Bennett (2013 and 2014).

Kelley placed himself on the list after consistent prolific production throughout the seven-game spring schedule. The Lafayette, Louisiana native leads the nation with 2,662 passing yards and points accounted for (18 passing touchdowns, seven rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns).

Kelley also ranks among the national leaders in completion percentage (68.9, 4th), completions per game (30.0, 4th), passing efficiency (159.0, 11th), passing touchdowns (18, 3rd), passing yards per game (380.3, 2nd), rushing touchdowns (7, 7th), total offense (386.9, 4th), touchdowns scored (9, 5th) and yards per pass attempt (8.73, 9th). In his first year as a starter for the Lions, Kelley threw for 300-plus yards in every game – including three games of 400-plus yards passing.

For Southeastern head coach Frank Scelfo, Kelley’s contributions go beyond the eye-popping numbers he’s produced.

“Cole’s statistics speak for themselves and I’ll put his numbers against anybody’s in the country,” Scelfo commented. “But to understand his real value to our program, you have to go beyond the box score. It’s Cole’s leadership and command of the locker room, the way he’s developed those traits is what has allowed him to develop into such a special player and someone who deserves to win the Walter Payton Award.”

Kelley hopes to share the award with his Lion teammates that have helped the offense rank among the FCS top 10 in passing offense, scoring offense, total offense, third-down conversion percentage, fourth-down conversion percentage, completion percentage, first downs and passing efficiency.

“It means a lot to me personally, because I’ve gone through a lot to get to this point in my career,” Kelley commented. “But I truly look at this as a team award, because without the wide receivers, offensive line, running backs and tight ends I have around me, I wouldn’t be in consideration for this award. My teammates make it so easy for me. I have all day to throw because our offensive line gives me all day to throw and I’m throwing to wide open guys who are making plays when I get the ball in their hands. This honor speaks more to our offense as a whole, not just me as a player.”

Kelley is one of five quarterbacks in the FCS among the 16 finalists for the award, along with Eastern Washington senior Eric Barriere, Fordham junior Tim DeMorat, Alabama A&M senior Aqeel Glass and Samford graduate Liam Welch. Kelley is the lone player who competed in the Southland Conference spring season to be named a Payton Award finalist, though Central Arkansas sophomore wide receiver Tyler Hudson is a finalist after his performance during the fall nonconference season.

In total, the Southland had eight finalists for Stats Perform’s 2020-21 legacy awards announced Monday. Sam Houston head coach K.C. Keeler was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, presented to FCS’ top coach.

McNeese graduate defensive end Isaiah Chambers, Sam Houston senior defensive end Jahari Kay and UCA senior cornerback Robert Rochell were among the Buck Buchanan Award finalists for the honor of being named the nation’s top defensive player. The Jerry Rice Award is presented to the nation’s top freshman and Nicholls defensive back Quinton “Pig” Cage and UIW quarterback Cameron Ward are both up for consideration.

The Payton and Buchanan Award winners will be announced on May 15 on the eve of the FCS National Championship Game.

2020-21 STATS PERFORM FCS AWARDS
WALTER PAYTON AWARD – 16 Finalists

Cole Kelley, Southeastern Louisiana, QB, Sr. (Southland)
Statistics: 210 of 305 (68.9 percent), 2,662 yards, 18 TDs, 4 INTs; 7 rush TDs; 2 TD catches (7 games)
Notable: 300+ pass yards in all 7 games; 4+ total TDs in 5 of 7 games

Percy Agyei-Obese, James Madison, RB, Sr. (CAA)
Statistics: 69 carries, 381 yards, 5.5 ypc, 5 TDs; 4 receptions (4 games)
Notable: TD in all 4 games; 132 rush yards, TD vs. Elon

Eric Barriere, Eastern Washington, QB, Sr. (Big Sky)
Statistics: 166 of 268 (61.9 percent), 2,193 yards, 18 TDs, 6 INTs; 135 rush yards (6 games)
Notable: 300+ pass yards in 5 of 6 games, multiple TD passes in all 6 games

Julius Chestnut, Sacred Heart, RB, Jr. (Northeast)
Statistics: 93 carries, 717 yards, 7.7 ypc, 8 TDs; 8 receptions, 171 yards, 3 TDs (4 games)
Notable: 173+ rushing yards, TD in all 4 games

Tim DeMorat, Fordham, QB, Jr. (Patriot)
Statistics: 93 of 129 (72.1 percent), 1,049 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs; 2 rush TDs (3 games)
Notable: 39 of 56, 440 yards, 2 TDs vs. Holy Cross

Juwon Farri, Monmouth, RB, Jr. (Big South)
Statistics: 79 carries, 422 yards, 5.3 ypc, 9 TD (3 games)
Notable: 119+ rushing yards, multiple TDs in all 3 games

Aqeel Glass, Alabama A&M, QB, Sr. (SWAC)
Statistics: 67 of 113 (59.3 percent), 1,084 yards, 13 TDs, 3 INTs; 1 rush TD (3 games)
Notable: 27 of 40, 440 yards, 6 TDs, 1 rush TD vs. Jackson State

Jakob Herres, VMI, WR, Jr. (Southern)
Statistics: 67 receptions, 807 yards, 12.0 ypc, 7 TDs (7 games)
Notable: 29 receptions, 373 yards, 5 TDs over consecutive games vs. Samford and Wofford
Quay Holmes, ETSU, RB, Jr. (Southern)
Statistics: 122 carries, 640 yards, 5.2 ypc, 8 TDs; 182.3 all-purpose ypg (6 games)
Notable: 310 all-purpose yards vs. Western Carolina, 293 vs. VMI

Tyler Hudson, Central Arkansas, WR, So. (Southland)
Statistics: 50 receptions, 845 yards, 16.9 ypc, 7 TDs; 15 punt returns, 119 yards, 1 TD (9 games)
Notable: 12 receptions, 154 receiving yards vs. Arkansas State was one of 4 100-yard games

Dejoun Lee, Delaware, RB, Sr. (CAA)
Statistics: 77 carries, 498 yards, 6.5 ypc, 5 TDs; 87-yard KOR TD; 152.2 all-purpose ypg (5 games)
Notable: 221 rush yards, 2 TDs, 275 all-purpose yards vs. Rhode Island

Keith Pearson, Presbyterian, WR, Sr. (Pioneer)
Statistics: 65 receptions, 831 yards, 12.8 ypc, 5 TDs; 6 punt returns, 90 yards (7 games)
Notable: 10+ receptions in 4 of 7 games; 100+ receiving yards in 5 of 7 games

Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State, RB, Jr. (Missouri Valley)
Statistics: 80 carries, 453 yards, 5.7 ypc, 2 TDs; 12 receptions, 88 yards, 1 TD (5 games)
Notable: 90+ rush yards in 4 of 5 games

Otis Weah, North Dakota, RB, So. (Missouri Valley)
Statistics: 76 carries, 570 yards, 7.5 ypc, 7 TDs (5 games)
Notable: 129 rush yards, TD vs. North Dakota State; TD rush in all 5 games

Liam Welch, Samford, QB, Grad (Southern)
Statistics: 161 of 236 (68.2 percent), 2,242 yards, 12 TDs, 5 INTs; 303 rush yards, 4 TDs (6 games)
Notable: 37 of 59, 570 yards, 4 TDs vs. VMI; 39 of 49, 443 yards, 1 TD vs. Mercer

DeAngelo Wilson, Austin Peay, WR, Sr. (Ohio Valley)
Statistics: 44 receptions, 619 yards, 14.1 ypc, 3 TDs (7 games)
Notable: 99+ receiving yards in all 5 OVC games

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