North Dakota State's Trey Lance first freshman to win Walter Payton Award

Talent doesn't have an age minimum.

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance was honored with the 2019 Walter Payton Award at the Stats Perform FCS Awards Banquet on Friday night. The redshirt signal-caller became the first freshman to be named national offensive player of the year in college football's Division I subdivision, adding to his Jerry Rice Award, which goes to the national freshman of the year.

Lance emerged from a group of 26 finalists, including the runner-up, Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus, and Monmouth running back Pete Guerriero and Sacramento State quarterback Kevin Thomson, who tied for third in the voting.

A national panel of 156 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries decided the Payton Award, which is named for the legendary College and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back and was first presented in 1987.

"It's an honor obviously to be even in the conversation for those awards," Lance said.

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Lance, from Marshall, Minnesota, had the difficult assignment of replacing Easton Stick, the winningest quarterback in FCS history. Yet the first-team All-American has helped two-time defending national champion North Dakota State to a 15-0 record and back into Saturday's championship game against James Madison.

The first freshman to be named offensive player of the year in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, Lance has completed 186 of 277 passes for 2,741 yards and 28 touchdowns without an interception, ranking No. 1 in the FCS in pass efficiency rating (182.8) and No. 4 in completion rate (67.1%). The dual-threat QB has rushed for 934 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 243.2 yards of total offense per game.

Cookus ranks No. 1 in the FCS in passing yards (4,114) and passing yards per game (342.8), throwing for 31 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. Guerriero helped Monmouth to the Big South title, and he leads the FCS in rushing yards (1,995) and rushing yards per game (142.5) and is tied for fifth in touchdowns (20). Thomson fueled Sacramento State to its first Big Sky title and FCS playoff bid, ranking fifth nationally in total offense (319.6 yards per game) and tied for sixth in points responsible for (236).

The Payton Award's distinguished list of past recipients includes Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, Jimmy Garoppolo, Cooper Kupp and 2018 recipient Devlin "Duck" Hodges.