Southeastern Louisiana’s Kelley invited to May 15 Walter Payton Award announcement

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Cole Kelley
(Photo: Randy Bergeron)

HAMMOND, La. – Southeastern Louisiana senior quarterback Cole Kelley is one of three student-athletes to be invited to the announcement of the winner of the 2020-21 Stats Perform FCS Walter Payton Award, presented to the nation’s top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Stats Perform announced on Wednesday.

Kelley, Eastern Washington senior quarterback Eric Barriere and Sacred Heart junior running back Julius Chestnut were the top three vote-getters among the 16 finalist for the 34th Walter Payton Award, named for the legendary running back who starred for the Chicago Bears and played collegiately at Jackson State. The winner will be announced on an FCS National Awards show to air on Bally Sports Regional Networks (formerly Fox Sports Regional Networks) on Saturday, May 15.

Kelley is vying to become the third Southland Conference quarterback to claim the prestigious honor, joining Stephen F. Austin’s Jeremy Moses (2010) and Sam Houston’s Jeremiah Briscoe (2016, 2017). Kelley is the third Lion signal-caller to finish in the top 10 in the Payton Award voting along with Martin Hankins (2004, 7th) and Bryan Bennet (2013, 8th).

Kelley, Barriere (Big Sky) and Chestnut (Northeast) were all named the Offensive Players of the Year for their respective conferences. The trio is trying to add their name to the list of former award winners that includes standouts Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, Jimmy Garoppolo, Cooper Kupp and most recently, Trey Lance, who is expected to be drafted in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft.

In seven regular-season games, Kelley the FCS in passing yards (2,662), completions (210), total offensive yards (2,708) and total touchdowns (27). The Lafayette, Louisiana native also was in the top five in pass attempts (305, second), TD passes (18, tied for third) and completion percentage (68.9, fifth). In his first year as a starter, Kelley topped 300 yards passing in all seven games, including three games of 400 yards or more.

EWU’s Barriere ranked in the top five nationally over a six-game regular season in passing yards (2,193, fourth), passing yards per game (365.5, fifth), attempts (265, fifth), completions (166, fifth), touchdown passes (18, tied for third) and total offensive yards (2,328, third). He went on to pass for 246 yards and a touchdown in a playoff loss this past weekend.

Chestnut rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown in a playoff loss as well for Sacred Heart. It followed a four-game regular season in which he led the FCS in rushing yards per game (179.3) and all-purpose yards per game (222.0) and ranked second in points per game (17.0) and fourth in yards per carry (7.7).

A 40-member national media panel voted on the Payton Award following the unprecedented 2020-21 regular season, which spanned the fall and spring semesters.

2020-21 Walter Payton Award Voting Results
A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point.

1. TBA, May 15
2. TBA, May 15
3. TBA, May 15
4. Jakob Herres, WR, VMI: 1-4-5-2-4-44
5. Otis Weah, RB, North Dakota: 1-1-5-2-5-33
6. Aqeel Glass, RB, Alabama A&M: 1-1-2-4-7-30
7. Dejoun Lee, RB, Delaware: 0-4-1-1-1-22
8.(tie) Juwon Farri, RB, Monmouth: 0-2-1-2-5-20
8.(tie) Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State: 0-2-1-3-3-20
10. Liam Welch, QB, Samford: 0-1-3-1-4-19
11.(tie) Percy Agyei-Obese, RB, James Madison: 1-0-2-1-1-14
11.(tie) Tyler Hudson, WR, Central Arkansas: 0-1-1-2-3-14
13. Quay Holmes, RB, ETSU: 0-1-2-1-1-13
14. Keith Pearson, WR, Presbyterian: 0-0-0-4-1-9
15. DeAngelo Wilson, WR, Austin Peay: 0-1-1-0-1-8
16. Tim DeMorat, QB, Fordham: 0-0-0-1-0-2

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