Eastern wide receiver is recognized by Mickey Charles LLC, formerly with the Sports Network, as this year’s recipient of the Payton Award
In the first of three National Player of the Year Awards he is up for, Eastern Washington University junior wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been selected as the Walter Payton Award winner for 2015 as selected by Mickey Charles LLC of www.FCSAwards.com.
The awards program for the NCAA Football Championship was founded by Charles and The Sports Network, and is now in its 29th year. But The Sports Network ceased operation in summer of 2015, and the awards are independently presented by Mickey Charles LLC.
STATS is the now the leader in coverage for FCS Football, and will present the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Award on Jan. 8, 2016, on the eve of the FCS championship game. Kupp is one of three finalists for that award, and is also a candidate for the Offensive Player of the Year presented by the FCS Athletic Director’s Association.
Kupp becomes only the second wide receiver to win the Payton Award, with Brian Finneran from Villanova winning in 1997. He is the second Eagle to win the honor, with quarterback Erik Meyer honored in 2005 and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell receiving the award in 2011. Eastern has now won the award three times out of eight total Payton’s won by the Big Sky Conference.
Kupp has previously been honored as a first team selection on All-America teams announced by the American Football Coaches Association, STATS, Associated Press, the FCS Athletic Director’s Association, Walter Camp Football Foundation and College Sports Madness. The FCS ADA selected him as its recipient of FCS Wide Receiver of the Year and he was also a first team Academic All-American in 2015.
A 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., Kupp’s spectacular 2015 season included 114 receptions. That broke the previous league record of 112 and ranks eighth all-time in FCS history.
Kupp, who became only the second wide receiver in 42 years to win the Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP Award, is also one of three finalists to win the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Award which will be announced on the eve of the FCS championship game. He announced on Nov. 30 he will indeed return for his senior season at EWU in lieu of pursuing professional opportunities a year early.
In 2015, Kupp led FCS in five categories – receptions, receptions per game (10.4), reception yards (1,642), reception yards per game (149.3) and touchdown receptions (19). The players closest to him in FCS were eight catches, 170 yards and four TDs behind him, and in the league the next-best player for catches was teammate Kendrick Bourne (73) and for yards it was NAU’s Emmanuel Butler (1,208).
Through his junior season, Kupp has established eight Big Sky Conference records, as well as 17 school marks and seven NCAA Football Championships records. His 122.4 average reception yards per game is currently a FCS career record, while his other six FCS records were set during his freshman season. His average of 10.4 catches per game in 2015 was also a league record (sixth all-time in FCS), to go along with six career marks he set in just three seasons – all ending with first team All-Big Sky accolades.
Kupp even passed for a pair of touchdowns this season and had another via punt return, giving him 58 total touchdowns scored and 60 accounted for in his 39-game career (all as a starter). In just three years, he already ranks second in FCS history in touchdown catches (56, two behind the record), second in reception yards (4,764, 486 behind the record) and fourth in receptions (311, 84 behind the record). All three marks are Big Sky records, and he also established a new league record for average catches per game (7.97), which also ranks third in FCS history.