FARGO - 2020 began with a stunning announcement in Frisco, Texas from former New York Giants linebacker Gary Reasons.
Reasons announced at a banquet on a Friday night in January that North Dakota State redshirt freshman quarterback Trey Lance had won the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the top offensive player in the country. Lance was the first freshman to win the award.
"I'm shocked. I just can't believe he won the award." Angie Lance, Trey's mom said that night.
The next day, Lance put the Bison football team on his back literally in the national title game against James Madison. Lance carried the ball 30 times for 166 yards and added a highlight reel touchdown en route to be named game MVP as NDSU won an eighth national championship.
"I can't describe the last 24 hours. I turned my phone off last night, I didn't want to be distracted by that. If we didn't win today that wouldn't have meant anything." Trey said after the game.
FCS coaches and fans were left to shake their heads. NDSU would have this guy for three more years?
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Bison had spring football canceled. As this year's NFL Draft neared, a national story on Lance was featured on The Athletic's web site. Ten days after that, Mel Kiper, Jr, ESPN's NFL Draft analyst for thirty years had this to say about the Bison quarterback:
"He'll be a third year sophomore, we don't know if he'll come out yet. Trey Lance is a spectacular quarterback and people will be hearing about him for a while just because of where he's ranked right now in the middle of the top 15."
And with that the hype train had left the station. Articles and sports talk continued to mention Lance as a potential first round NFL Draft pick.
Then the unimaginable happened. The Missouri Valley Football Conference announced they were postponing their football season to the spring. NDSU searched to play a couple of games and found one opponent, Central Arkansas.
The NFL scouts and some executives made their way to Fargo for a truly unique event. A scouting game for Trey Lance, with rumors of him leaving early for the draft swirling around him.
Lance looked mortal in this game completing 15 of 30 passes, he threw his first colleigate interception in the game. He did run for four touchdowns. He was mum on his draft future after the game.
Trey Lance's highlight reel. Enjoy. pic.twitter.com/BznPMROm5g— Dom Izzo (@DomIzzoWDAY) October 6, 2020
"No, I have no decision yet." Trey said.
The talking heads had their say.
"I think he's just as good as Justin Fields(Ohio State's quarterback), love the way Lance is so sudden, he's able to extend plays, he's what the NFL is looking for today." ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said.
We didn't have to wait long for a decision. Two days after the Central Arkansas game, Lance announced he was turning pro, becoming the first FCS quarterback to leave with three years of eligibility remaining.
"After an amazing experience at North Dakota State University, it is time for me to be at the next chapter. I'm excited to announce I'm taking the next step of chasing my dreams and will be declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft." Lance said on his Twitter account.
He's been working in Atlanta for the last couple of months. His draft stock has slid over the last month from the top of the first round to the middle of the first round.
There has never been a year like 2020 and there hasn't been a player in Bison football history to see his stock explode so quickly, not even Carson Wentz.
Now we'll see what 2021 has in story for Trey Lance.