FCS National Awards show to air on Bally Sports Regional Networks on May 15

The way UIW quarterback Cameron Ward threw the ball this season, Jerry Rice surely would have wanted to catch passes from him.

Ward was announced on Monday as recipient of the 2020-21 Stats Perform FCS Jerry Rice Award, which honors the top freshman player in college football’s Division I subdivision.

Named after the legendary Hall of Fame wide receiver, the Rice is celebrating its 10th anniversary season. Ward, selected from 16 finalists, will be honored on an FCS National Awards show to air on Bally Sports Regional Networks (formerly Fox Sports Regional Networks) on May 15.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound standout from West Columbia, Texas, needed only six games to set UIW’s record for touchdown passes in a season with 24. The Southland Conference freshman of the year set the Cardinals’ single-game record and matched it a week later with six scoring passes against nationally ranked opponents Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls.

Ward led the FCS in TD passes during the regular season, ranked second in passing yards (2,260), completions (183) and total touchdowns (26 with two rushing), and third in pass attempts (303) and passing yards per game (376.7). While surpassing 300 passing yards in every game, he was intercepted only four times, and it led to a 146.5 pass efficiency, also the Cardinals’ single-season record.

“I couldn’t be happier for Cam winning the Jerry Rice Award. There is no freshman more deserving,” UIW coach Eric Morris said. “To come from running the option in high school to learning our offense, winning the starting job and doing what he did this season, I don’t think there’s any question (he deserves it).” 

UIW, located in San Antonio, was nationally ranked for six straight weeks before finishing with a 3-3 record.

A 40-member national media panel voted for the Rice Award following the unprecedented regular season, which spanned the fall and spring semesters. South Dakota State quarterback Mark Gronowski finished second in the voting.

2020-21 Jerry Rice 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. Cameron Ward, QB, UIW: 19-9-4-1-2-147

2. Mark Gronowski, QB, South Dakota State: 10-11-6-1-1-115

3. Seth Morgan, QB, VMI: 3-4-5-8-6-68

4. Isaac Dowling, LB, Mercer: 3-2-6-1-7-50

5. Tony Muskett, QB, Monmouth: 1-1-4-8-5-42

6. (tie) Draylen Ellis, QB, Austin Peay: 0-5-1-4-2-33

6. (tie) Tommy Schuster, QB, North Dakota: 1-2-3-5-1-33

8. Ty French, DE, Gardner-Webb: 0-0-5-2-4-23

9. Devon Starling, QB, Tennessee State: 1-1-1-3-1-19

10. Keyon Turner, DE, Valparaiso: 0-3-0-2-1-17

11. Jared Verse, DE, Albany: 1-1-1-1-2-16

12. Bronson Barron, QB, Weber State: 1-1-0-2-1-14

13. Ryan Nettles, QB, Alabama State: 0-0-2-0-4-10

14. Quinton “Pig” Cage, NB, Nicholls: 0-0-1-1-3-8

15. Matthew Sluka, QB, Holy Cross: 0-0-1-1-0-5

16. Billy Lucas, RB, Duquesne: 0-0-0-0-0-0