Southeastern Louisiana QB Cole Kelley wins prestigious Walter Payton Award

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Cole Kelley

Senior quarterback becomes third Southland student-athlete to garner FCS offensive player of the year honor

CHICAGO – Southeastern Louisiana senior quarterback Cole Kelley is the recipient of the 2020-21 Stats Perform FCS Walter Payton Award, the organization announced Saturday.

It marks the fourth time the winner has hailed from the Southland Conference, joining Stephen F. Austin’s Jeremy Moses (2010) and two-time honoree Jeremiah Briscoe (2016-17) of Sam Houston. Kelley is the first Lion to take home the award and just the third to be named a finalist, along with Martin Hankins (2004) and Bryan Bennett (2013, 2014).

With 137 votes, Kelley edged out Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere (131) and Sacred Heart running back Julius Chestnut (84) and was selected from a list of 16 finalists for the FCS’ most outstanding offensive player.

Named for the Pro and College Football Hall-of-Famer and in its 34th year, the winner will be honored on an FCS National Awards show to air tonight on Bally Sports Regional Networks (formerly Fox Sports Regional Networks).

Named all-America by Stats Perform and the Associated Press, Kelley also garnered Southland Conference Spring Offensive Player of the Year recognition following an electric year under center for the Lions in which he threw for more than 300 yards in all seven games.

The FCS’ leading passer (2,662) and scorer (164) ranked fourth in completion percentage (68.9) and total offense per game (386.9), and he tied for second leaguewide with seven rushing touchdowns.

The SLU signal-caller picked up his second career Stats Perform FCS National Offensive Player of the Week honor on April 20 after capping the spring season with 418 passing yards and five total touchdowns in the Lions’ 55-48 shootout loss at No. 17 Southern Illinois. Kelley completed 34 of 42 (81 percent) passes for two touchdowns, while also rushing for three scores.

Kelley racked up 462 yards and four touchdowns – both season highs – in a season-opening loss to Sam Houston. He also tossed four touchdown passes in a win over River Bell Classic rival Nicholls, in addition to hauling in his second touchdown pass of the season against the Colonels.

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