NCAA Football

Payton Award finalist Cookus among best QBs in FCS history

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - An opposing coach whose team went up against Northern Arizona's Case Cookus this season called him the best quarterback he had faced since Jimmy Garoppolo, the 2013 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award recipient.

That's saying a lot because the coach has been matched against Carson Wentz and plenty of other top signal callers.

Northern Arizona coach Chris Ball gets the comparison. In Cookus, he felt the Lumberjacks had the best player on the field every week.

"He is the face of our program," Ball said of Cookus, a finalist for the 2019 Payton Award, which honors the FCS offensive player of the year. "Not only is he a great player, his leadership, character and work ethic are second to none. It was a great experience and honor to be around such a quality young man."

Cookus' resiliency matches his skills. Since stepping onto the FCS scene with a record-breaking season in 2015, when he received the Jerry Rice Award as the national freshman of the year, he has twice battled back from season-ending shoulder injuries. He played in only two games in 2018, but as a fifth-year senior this season, he's ranked No. 1 in the FCS in passing yards (4,114) and passing yards per game (342.8). He passed for at least 300 passing yards nine times and threw 31 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions. Fittingly, he had a career-high 450 passing yards in his final game.

Standing tall in the pocket at 6-foot-4, Cookus set Northern Arizona career records for passing yards (12,082) and touchdown passes (105) with 892 completions on 1,431 attempts. His TD-to-interception ratio was 5-to-1 (105 to 21), helping him to a superb 154.5 career passing efficiency rating.

The Payton Award winner will be announced at the STATS national awards banquet on Jan. 10 in Frisco, Texas. Also up for the award are quarterbacks Trey Lance of North Dakota State and Kevin Thomson of Sacramento State and running back Pete Guerriero of Monmouth.

Updated December 30, 2019