The STATS Football Championship Subdivision Awards Banquet offered some of the best competitors in Division I-AA football the chance for some much-needed recognition Friday night.
Former Grambling State and Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams said it best while he presented one of the awards: "It's not so much where you go, as what you do wherever go."
Take away the big crowds, the bright camera lights and the lengthy press conferences. For these eight young players and one coach, it was all about the competition. And throughout the 2015 season, they all proved to be the best in the league at football.
"What I'm seeing here is a product of where I come from," Williams said, speaking to his days at Grambling. "I come from schools just this size. When you see some of things they've done, you've got to appreciate coming back here. It's a good feeling to come back and see the young guys."
Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
“This is a great game to play and it’s an honor to play it," Kupp said. "Everybody says football is always fun, but it’s not always fun. Waking up at 5 a.m. ... going to class then heading back to the office ... Putting in the hours of work watching film. It’s not always fun. But the friendships, the brothers, the mentors, make it all worth it."
Defensive Player of the Year: Tyrone Holmes, DE, Montana
“I really didn’t think I was going win," Holmes said. "I’m extremely blessed that I chose the University of Montana. It was an amazing experience.”
Freshman of the Year: Case Cookus, QB, Northern Arizona
Cookus also avoided turnovers during his freshman season, tossing only three interceptions and losing only three fumbles.
"I'm excited that I was able to be recognized nationally," Cookus said. "I got that little chip on my shoulder coming out of high school -- not many people looked at me as a quarterback for their team, so it's something I can build on for the future."
Cookus helped lead Northern Arizona to 7-4 record in 2015, including a four-game win streak where he threw for 1,347 yards, 11 touchdowns and only one interception.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Barnum, Portland State
After being shut out by Washington State in the season opening, the Vikings scored 24-unanswered points to beat the Cougars, 24-14. Four weeks later, the Vikings put up 66 on North Texas in a huge road win over the Mean Green.
"I wanted to be a coach in the Big Sky Conference. And now I am," Barnum said. "It means a lot to me. And FCS football means a lot to me."
Doris & Eddie Robinson Scholar-Athlete Award: Dalton Screws, WR, Jacksonville State