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Anthony Chiusano | | February 21, 2021

Walter Payton Award: Complete history of the FCS offensive honor

Trey Lance's 2019 FCS playoff highlights for North Dakota State

The Walter Payton Award is given each year to the most outstanding offensive player in FCS football. North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance received the 2019-20 award on the eve of the 2020 national championship.

Here's everything you need to know about the annual honor, presented by STATS FCS.

FCS Walter Payton Award: What is it and who is it named after?

The Walter Payton Award debuted in 1987 to honor the most outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision. In 1995, with the introduction of the Buck Buchanan Award for top defensive player, the Payton Award was altered to only recognize the top offensive player.

A national panel of more than 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries vote on the award's winner, based on players' regular-season performances. Voting is conducted before the start of FCS playoffs.

The Walter Payton Award is one of five national awards announced by STATS FCS:

  • Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year)
  • Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year)
  • Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year)
  • Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year)
  • Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year

The offensive player of the year award's namesake, Walter Payton, was an NFL legend with the Chicago Bears, earning nine Pro Bowl trips, 1977 MVP honors and a 1986 Super Bowl ring. The all-time great running back began his journey at FCS program Jackson State from 1971-74.

Payton, a two-time FCS All-American, rushed for 3,600 total yards and scored 63 touchdowns in four years at Jackson State. He is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.

Samford Athletics Walter Payton Award Samford QB Devlin Hodges won the 2018 Walter Payton Award.

FCS Walter Payton Award: When is the winner announced?

The Walter Payton Award winner is revealed annually at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation the night before the FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas. The 2019-20 recipient was announced Saturday, Jan. 10, 2020. 

All five STATS FCS national honors are celebrated at the banquet, though the Jerry Rice, Eddie Robinson and Doris Robinson winners are all announced ahead of time. The Payton and Buchanan award winners are revealed for the first time as part of the ceremony.

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The first 25-man Walter Payton Award watch list is released in the preseason by STATS FCS. The list has updates periodically throughout the regular season, culminating in the invitation of finalists to attend the banquet.

FCS Walter Payton Award: Complete history of past recipients

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is the 33rd recipient of the Walter Payton Award after beating out fellow finalists Case Cookus (Northern Arizona), Pete Guerriero (Monmouth) and Kevin Thomson (Sacramento State) for the 2019 award. Lance is the 15th quarterback to win the award in the past 16 years.

Quarterbacks have accounted for a position-best 22 winners since the award debuted in 1987. Nine running backs and two wide receivers have also been honored. Eastern Washington and Villanova lead all schools with three winners apiece.

Appalachian State Athletics armanti edwards Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards was the award's first repeat winner in 2008-09.

Only two players have lifted the hardware in consecutive years: Appalachian State standout quarterback Armanti Edwards won in 2008 and '09, and Sam Houston State QB Jeremiah Briscoe took it home in 2016 and '17.

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Other notable past honorees include eventual NFL stars Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington, 2015), Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois, 2013), Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois, 2002) and Steve McNair (Alcorn State, 1994). See the full list below.

FCS Walter Payton Award winners (1987-2019):

2019 Trey Lance, North Dakota State Quarterback Watch his highlights
2018 Devlin Hodges, Samford Quarterback  
2017 Jeremiah Briscoe, Sam Houston State Quarterback  
2016 Jeremiah Briscoe, Sam Houston State Quarterback  
2015 Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington Wide receiver  
2014 John Robertson, Villanova Quarterback  
2013 Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois Quarterback Watch his highlights
2012 Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion Quarterback Watch his highlights
2011 Bo Levi Mitchell, Eastern Washington Quarterback  
2010 Jeremy Moses, Stephen F. Austin Quarterback  
2009 Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State Quarterback  
2008 Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State Quarterback  
2007 Jayson Foster, Georgia Southern Quarterback  
2006 Ricky Santos, New Hampshire Quarterback  
2005 Erik Meyer, Eastern Washington Quarterback  
2004 Lang Campbell, William & Mary Quarterback  
2003 Jamaal Branch, Colgate Running back  
2002 Tony Romo, Eastern Illinois Quarterback  
2001 Brian Westbrook, Villanova Running back  
2000 Louis Ivory, Furman Running back  
1999 Adrian Peterson, Georgia Southern Running back  
1998 Jerry Azumah, New Hampshire Running back  
1997 Brian Finneran, Villanova Wide receiver  
1996 Archie Amerson, Northern Arizona Running back  
1995 Dave Dickenson, Montana Quarterback  
1994 Steve McNair, Alcorn State Quarterback  
1993 Doug Nussmeier, Idaho Quarterback  
1992 Michael Payton, Marshall Quarterback  
1991 Jamie Martin, Weber State Quarterback  
1990 Walter Dean, Grambling State Running back  
1989 John Friesz, Idaho Quarterback  
1988 Dave Meggett, Towson Running back  
1987 Kenny Gamble, Colgate Running back  

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