FRISCO, Texas — North Dakota State redshirt freshman quarterback Trey Lance was recognized as the top offensive player in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision while also making history.
Lance was named the Stats Perform Walter Payton Award winner Friday night, becoming the first freshman to ever win the award in its 33 years.
“This is just a phenomenal, surreal moment, unexpected totally," Carlton Lance, Trey's father, said after he accepted the award for his son on the eve of the national championship game. Trey did not attend the awards banquet because he chose to stay with his teammates as they readied to play James Madison on Saturday.
Lance, Sacramento State junior quarterback Kevin Thomson, Northern Arizona senior quarterback Case Cookus and Monmouth junior running back Pete Guerriero were the top four finalists for the award, which is given to the top offensive player in the FCS.
“Absolutely surprised,” Carlton said. “It wasn’t really on the radar, it wasn’t anything expected at all. Shocked in a good way. This year continues to be surreal for Trey, family … the only thing I keep on saying is we’re blessed and he’s blessed.”
Cookus finished second in the voting, while Thomson and Guerriero tied for third place. Lance finished with 353 points and 42 first-place votes. Cookus had 24 first-place votes and 276 points. Thomson had 20 first-place votes, while Guerriero had 15. Thomson and Guerriero both had 226 points.
The award is voted on by more than 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. The award is based on regular-season performance.
"If his numbers aren't good enough, I don't think Trey is going to worry about it too much or neither am I," Entz said earlier in the day Friday at a press conference. "If you were to ask him, and he would tell you the same thing, the only trophy he's worried about is the one that they hand out on the stage over there."
Entz was referring to the stage at Toyota Stadium on which the national championship trophy is handed to the winning team.
Lance took home two trophies Friday. He also won the Jerry Rice Award, which is given to the top freshman player in the FCS. Trey was announced as the award winner in December.
“He’s a young man that’s put himself in a great situation and worked extremely hard to be the best quarterback in FCS football," Entz said after Trey was announced the Payton Award winner.
Former Bison quarterback Easton Stick, now with the Los Angeles Chargers, finished third in voting for the Payton Award a year ago. Lance learned from Stick last season, Bison quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg said.
“Tremendous poise, very prepared every week, (Trey) learned that from Easton, great mentor for him," Hedberg said. “It’s a testament to our quarterback room and what the other guys have done to help him.”
While Entz thought his quarterback deserved the award, he was surprised Trey won it in his first year as a starter.
“Quite the shock to have a freshman quarterback receive the award, says a lot about our program and where our program is at," Entz said. "Trey is not going to take a lot of credit, he is extremely humble. He’s going to say this is because of his teammates.”
Lance has completed 186 of 277 passes (67%) for 2,714 yards and 28 touchdowns with no interceptions through 15 games. He has also rushed for 934 yards and 13 touchdowns on 139 attempts entering Saturday's FCS title game.
"It's a huge honor obviously to even be in the conversation for that," Trey said earlier in the day Friday. "Like I said before, it wouldn't be without the coaching staff, the position they put me in to be successful. The guys around me, getting to this point in the season."
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Lance credited Bison quarterbacks Zeb Noland, a junior, and Noah Sanders, a sophomore, for helping him this season. Trey also said Stick played a big role in his development.
“He continued to get better every week and I think it showed how we finished the season," Hedberg said.
The 5-foot-10, 190 pound Guerriero rushed for 1,995 yards and 18 touchdowns on 298 carries in 14 games. He also added 32 catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Cookus completed 290 of 481 passes (60%) for 4,114 yards and 31 touchdowns with seven interceptions through 12 games.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Thomson completed 265 of 450 passes (59%) for 3,216 yards and 27 touchdowns with eight interceptions in 12 games. He also rushed for 619 yards and 12 touchdowns on 127 attempts.
Montana senior linebacker Dante Olson won the Buck Buchanan Award as FCS' best defensive player on the award's 25th anniversary. James Madison senior defensive end Ron'Dell Carter and Nicholls State defensive tackle Sully Laiche were among the top three finalists.
The Eddie Robinson Award and the Doris Robinson-Scholar-Athlete Award winners were announced in the weeks leading up to Friday's award banquet. Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor won the Eddie Robinson Award for the top coach in the FCS. Bucknell punter Alex Pechin won the Doris Robinson Award. Both were presented those awards Friday.