Shedeur Sanders, a quarterback from Jackson State University, won the Jerry Rice Award for the top freshman in college football, the first HBCU player to win the honor, the Clarion-Ledger reports. Sanders was selected over runner-up Darius Hale of Central Arkansas from a group of 23 finalists.
Comprised of a 50-member, national media panel, the Rice Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding freshman player in the NCAA Division I Football. According to the NCAA, to be eligible for the Jerry Rice Award, a freshman could not have surpassed four games played in the previous academic year, Additionally, a first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points, and a fifth-place vote one point.
In a remarkable freshman campaign, Shedeur led Jackson State to its first SWAC championship since 2007, its first 11-win season in school history, and its first appearance in the Celebration Bowl, which many have described as the national championship of HBCU football.
Also, Shedeur completed 248 of 361 passes (68.7 percent) for 2,971 yards (over 200 in every game) and 28 touchdowns with only five interceptions and posted a 160.5 passer efficiency rating that placed him fifth in the FCS. Also, he rushed for three touchdowns and went over 3,000 yards, and through his 29th TD pass during the SWAC championship game.
Deion Sanders, his father and head coach, expressed his pride in Shedeur’s growth as a football player.
“I’m proud of him the way he’s played,” he told The Undefeated, “the way he sees the field, the way he’s encouraged his teammates, the way he approaches practice daily, the way he gets on their butts when they not doing what they need to do. I’m just proud of his maturity and who he is on and off the field.”
Shedeur will receive the honor at the FCS National Awards Banquet on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas. The broadcast will air the next day on Bally Sports Regional Networks.
In addition to the Rice Award, the Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year), Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) which Deion is nominated for, and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year will be presented at the televised banquet.
Established in 2011, the Jerry Rice Award is named the pro football Hall of Famer and Mississippi Valley State alum, who many consider to be the greatest wide receiver of all time.