There’s great familiarity with the three players who on Tuesday were invited to the Jan. 7 announcement of the 2021 Stats Perform Walter Payton Award, presented to the national offensive player of the year in Division I FCS.

Quarterbacks Eric Barriere of Eastern Washington and Cole Kelley of Southeastern Louisiana and running back Quay Holmes of ETSU were among 25 finalists for the Payton, named for the legendary running back and celebrating its 35th anniversary season. The winner, selected by a 50-member, national media panel following the regular season, will be announced at the FCS National Awards Banquet in Frisco, Texas, with a broadcast of the festivities to begin airing the next day, Jan. 8, on Bally Sports Regional Networks.

Kelley received the Payton Award following the 2020 season, edging Barriere, the runner-up, in the voting. Holmes also was a finalist, finishing 13th.

This fall, Kelley and Barriere have ranked at or near the top of most FCS passing statistics, and Holmes is the national leader in both rushing and scrimmage yards per game.

Barriere, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound redshirt senior from Inglewood, California, completed 361 of 552 passes (65.4%) for 5,070 yards (390 per game) and 46 touchdowns against eight interceptions in 13 games. He also rushed for 222 yards and four TDs while earning Big Sky offensive player of the year for the second consecutive season.

Holmes, a 6-1, 220-pound redshirt junior from Powder Springs, Georgia, ranks No. 1 in the FCS in rushing yards per game (126.5) with 1,518 yards and 17 touchdowns on 251 carries over 12 games (ETSU remains alive in the playoffs). Add in 27 receptions for 299 yards and three TDs, and the Southern Conference offensive player of the year is averaging 151.4 scrimmage yards.

Kelley, a 6-7, 245-pound redshirt senior from Lafayette, Louisiana, completed 406 of 552 passes (73.6%) for 5,124 yards (394.2 per game) and 44 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 13 games. The Southland Conference player of the year also rushed for 491 yards and 16 TDs to average an FCS-high 431.9 yards of total offense.

The Walter Payton Award has a rich history, with past recipients including Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, Jimmy Garoppolo, Cooper Kupp and Trey Lance. Also at the national banquet, Stats Perform will present the Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year), Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

2021 Walter Payton Award Voting Results

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.

1. TBA

2. TBA

3. TBA

4. Cole Johnson, QB, James Madison: 4-6-9-5-5-86

5. Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State: 1-3-7-4-8-54

6. Cameron Ward, QB, UIW: 0-2-4-3-2-28

7.(tie) Xavier Gipson, WR, Stephen F. Austin: 0-1-2-3-5-21

7.(tie) Isaiah Ifanse, RB, Montana State: 0-3-0-3-3-21

9. Aqeel Glass, QB, Alabama A&M: 1-2-0-0-2-15

10.(tie) Trevor Penning, LT, Northern Iowa: 0-1-1-1-1-10

10.(tie) Jason Shelley, QB, Missouri State: 0-0-2-0-4-10

12.(tie) Keon Howard, QB, UT Martin: 0-0-1-1-3-8

12.(tie) Eric Schmid, QB, Sam Houston: 0-0-1-1-3-8

14.(tie) BJ Byrd, WR, Morehead State: 0-1-0-1-1-7

14.(tie) Xavier Shepherd, QB, Kennesaw State: 0-0-0-2-3-7

14.(tie) Liam Welch, QB, Samford: 0-0-1-2-0-7

17.(tie) Juwan Carter, QB, Norfolk State: 0-0-0-1-1-3

17.(tie) Tim DeMorat, QB, Fordham: 0-0-1-0-0-3

19. Jake Chisholm, RB, Dayton: 0-0-0-1-0-2

20.(tie) Dai’Jean Dixon, WR, Nicholls: 0-0-0-0-1-1

20.(tie) Malik Grant, RB, Sacred Heart: 0-0-0-0-1-1

20.(tie) E.J. Perry, QB, Brown: 0-0-0-0-1-1

23.(tie) Davis Cheek, QB, Elon: 0-0-0-0-0-0

23.(tie) Geno Hess, RB, Southeast Missouri: 0-0-0-0-0-0

23.(tie) Tyler Hudson, WR, Central Arkansas: 0-0-0-0-0-0

Graphic by Matt Sisneros.