FRISCO, Texas – There were many outstanding statistics that quantified Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere’s 2021 season, but his countless smiles seemed to tell the story just as much.
On game day, it didn’t matter if he was having an exchange of pleasantries with a teammate, coach, opposing player or game official, Barriere basically had more fun than anybody else.
That Barriere received the Stats Perform Walter Payton Award, presented to the national offensive player of the year in Division I FCS, Friday night at the national awards banquet put a cap – and yet another smile – on his record-setting season.
A 50-member, national media panel selected the Payton, named for the legendary running back and celebrating its 35th anniversary season, from a group of 25 finalists following the regular season. Barriere, who twice previously finished in the top five of the voting, was first over Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley, the 2020 Payton winner, and ETSU running back Quay Holmes.
Barriere, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound redshirt senior from Inglewood, California, was named Big Sky Conference offensive player of the year for the second consecutive season. Incredibly, he surpassed 500 passing yards four times in EWU’s 13 games and racked up 5,070 overall, second in the nation to Kelley, but the fourth-highest total in FCS history. He completed 361 of 552 passes (65.4 percent) for 46 touchdowns (one off the FCS high) against only eight interceptions. He rushed for four more scores and averaged 407.1 yards of total offense.
He ended his career third all-time in the FCS in total offense (15,394) and passing yards (13,809), and tied for fourth in TD passes (121) – all school and conference career records.
Eastern Washington became the first school to have four Payton Award winners with Barriere joining quarterbacks Eric Meyer (2005) and Bo Levi Mitchell (2011) and wide receiver Cooper Kupp (2015).
The 6-7 Kelley completed 406 of 552 passes (73.6 percent) for 5,124 yards 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 431.9 yards of total offense.
The 6-1 Holmes earned Southern Conference offensive player of the year while the Buccaneers won the conference title. His 1,553 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns rank No. 2 in the FCS, while his 144.9 scrimmage yards per game are No. 1.
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.
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. Eric Barriere, QB, Eastern Washington: 24-18-1-3-0-201
2. Cole Kelley, QB, Southeastern Louisiana: 16-11-7-8-2-163
3. Quay Holmes, RB, ETSU: 4-2-13-11-4-93
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.