STATS To Honor Four Outstanding FCS Players, One Head Coach at Annual FCS Awards Banquet
STATS has announced that it will once again hand out five awards at its annual FCS awards banquet in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 5 – the night before the subdivision’s national championship game at nearby Toyota Stadium.
The 24-team playoff field will be down to two finalists deep in the heart of Texas, but before the FCS’ best team is crowned, its standout players will be honored at a gala event at the Embassy Suites Dallas-Frisco Convention Center. Last January, 150 attendees representing a cross-section of FCS roles came together at STATS’ second awards ceremony.
The five awards to be presented are:
- The STATS FCS Walter Payton Award, given to the FCS’ offensive player of the year;
- The STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award, given to its defensive player of the year;
- The STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award, given to its coach of the year;
- The STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award, given to its freshman of the year; and
- The STATS FCS Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete Award, given to the student-athlete who excels not only on the field and in the classroom, but in the community and beyond
“STATS is once again thrilled to honor the best and brightest of the FCS, past and present,” says Brian Orefice, the company’s director of news and data production. “It’s an annual highlight to meet these student-athletes and continue to uphold the legacy of these incredible award namesakes.”
A year ago, the banquet was highlighted by the attendance of luminaries like Jerry Rice, Jarrett Payton, Doug Williams, Gary Reasons and Dexter Coakley, and had footage shot by ESPN for use on its title-game telecast.
Founded by Mickey Charles of The Sports Network, the annual honors date back to 1987, when the Payton Award was presented to running back Kenny Gamble of Colgate and the Eddie Robinson Award went to Mark Duffner of Holy Cross. Since then, names of future NFL stars like Steve McNair, Brian Westbrook and Tony Romo have been called up to accept the Payton Award, which is often referred to as the “Heisman of the FCS.” Last season, Sam Houston State’s Jeremiah Briscoe won the award after setting an FCS record with 57 touchdown passes.
The Buchanan Award goes back to 1995 and includes such notable alums as Coakley and Jared Allen, while the Rice Award was created in 2011. The Doris Robinson Award was introduced two years ago to honor the service to community and academics of the legendary Grambling State coach’s wife.
The same national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers, and other dignitaries who select the STATS FCS Top 25 poll – numbering over 150 voters – will choose the winners.
Defending national champion James Madison has gone wire to wire as the nation’s No. 1 team this season in the STATS FCS Top 25, which has featured representatives from 10 of the subdivision’s 13 conferences. Aside from the Dukes holding steady at the top, parity has ruled. Nineteen teams have made an appearance in the poll’s top 10 at some point during 2017.
In 2015, STATS expanded an initiative to serve the FCS community with staples such as a pre- and postseason All-America team, weekly Top 25 poll, national players of the week, award watch lists and season-ending awards.
The FCS competes at the NCAA’s Division I level, and is home to 124 schools in 13 conferences across the country. Approximately 160 FCS players were on NFL rosters at the start of the 2017 season, including current stars like NFL MVP candidate Carson Wentz (North Dakota State), David Johnson (Northern Iowa), Joe Flacco (Delaware), Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington), Adam Vinatieri (South Dakota State) and Cameron Brate (Harvard).