A father-son coach-and-player dynamic can be delicate, but Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders has made this season easy on his dad, Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders.
Shedeur Sanders’ consistent excellence has been pivotal in the Tigers’ championship season and one of the big reasons why on Monday he was named the 2021 recipient of the Stats Perform Jerry Rice Award, which is presented to the national freshman player of the year in Division I FCS.
A 50-member, national media panel selected the Rice Award after the regular season, with Sanders winning over runner-up Darius Hale of Central Arkansas from a group of 23 finalists. The Rice Award, now in its 11th season, is named for legendary Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, and past recipients include Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington), Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (Fordham) and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (North Dakota State).
Shedeur Sanders was on campus as a redshirt during his father’s first season this past spring. After winning the starting job in the summer, he has gone on to be the offensive leader of Jackson State’s first Southwestern Athletic Conference championship squad since 2007. The Tigers (11-1) next face South Carolina State in the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 18 in Atlanta.
During the regular season, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Sanders, from Canton, Texas, completed 248 of 361 passes (68.7%) for 2,971 yards (over 200 in every game) and 28 touchdowns with only five interceptions – a 160.5 passer efficiency rating that ranked fifth in the FCS – and rushed for three more scores. He went over 3,000 yards and added a 29th TD pass in the SWAC championship game.
“I’m proud of him the way he’s played,” Deion Sanders 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 Sanders will be honored at the FCS National Awards Banquet on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas, with a broadcast of the festivities to begin airing the next day on Bally Sports Regional Networks. Stats Perform also will present 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) and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
2021 Jerry Rice Award Voting Results
To be eligible for the Jerry Rice Award, a freshman could not have surpassed four games played in the previous academic year – similar to the NCAA’s regular redshirt rule. 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. Shedeur Sanders, QB, Jackson State: 17-14-6-4-2-169
2. Darius Hale, RB, Central Arkansas: 10-10-10-5-1-131
3. Josiah Silver, DE, New Hampshire: 9-10-5-2-2-106
4. Zevi Eckhaus, QB, Bryant: 3-2-4-6-7-54
5. James Conway, LB, Fordham: 3-1-7-5-2-52
6. RJ Martinez, QB, Northern Arizona: 3-0-7-4-4-48
7. Jalyn Witcher, LB, Presbyterian: 1-2-0-5-7-30
8. Rodney Dansby, LB, Houston Baptist: 1-2-2-2-4-27
9. Collin Guggenheim, RB, Nicholls: 1-2-1-3-3-25
10. Tyler King, LB, Stony Brook: 0-2-2-5-0-24
11. Demeatric Crenshaw, QB, Youngstown State: 1-0-2-1-0-13
12. Jacari Carter, WR, Merrimack: 0-1-1-0-5-12
13.(tie) Andrew Body, QB, Texas Southern: 0-1-1-1-1-10
13.(tie) Elijah Burris, RB, Hampton: 1-1-0-0-1-10
15. Drae McCray, WR, Austin Peay: 0-1-1-0-1-8
16. Dominick Poole, CB, The Citadel: 0-1-0-1-1-7
17.(tie) Andreas Keaton, S, Western Carolina: 0-0-0-2-1-5
17.(tie) Tyson Thompson, WR, Houston Baptist: 0-0-0-1-3-5
19. Nate Bennett, WR, Portland State: 0-0-0-1-2-4
20.(tie) Bryce Norman, LB, Southeast Missouri: 0-0-0-0-3-3
20.(tie) Sy’Veon Wilkerson, RB, Delaware State: 0-0-1-0-0-3
22.(tie) Thor Griffith, DT, Harvard: 0-0-0-1-0-2
22.(tie) C.J. Tillman, LB, Campbell: 0-0-0-1-0-2
Graphic by Matt Sisneros.