Several HBCU football players have been named finalists for the Heisman Trophy of the FCS.
Quarterbacks Shedeur Sanders (Jackson State) and Davius Richard (NC Central) along with Florida A&M wide receiver Xavier Smith and NC A&T running back Bhayshul Tuten were named among 30 finalists for the award.
The Payton Award, which was first presented in 1987 and is now in its 36th season, is named for legendary running back Walter Payton, who starred at Jackson State as part of his Hall of Fame career.
Sanders, who won the Jerry Rice Award in 2021 as the top FCS freshman, set single-season school records for touchdown passes (32) and completions (284) while passing for 3,083 yards and rushing for a career-high five touchdowns for JSU.
Richard, who helped lead the Eagles to a MEAC championship and Celebration Bowl berth, ranks fifth in the FCS in points responsible for with 20.4 points per game, and 12th in total offense with 288.8 yards per game. He leads the MEAC in passing yards (2,486), passing touchdowns (24), and rushing touchdowns (13).
At Florida A&M, Smith had a phenomenal season for the Ratters, finishing the season with 87 receptions for 1,021 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. The 11 touchdowns from Smith tied a single-season career-high. He finished the season ranked nationally in receptions per game (3rd, 7.9), receiving touchdowns (8th, 11), and receiving yards (9th, 1,021).
Tuten, the dazzling sophomore rusher, had 208 carries, 1,363 yards and a Big South-leading 13 TDs. He also recorded 31 receptions for 342 yards and 4 TDs in 11 games.
A national media panel will select the Payton Award winner, with voting based on the regular season. The recipient will be announced at the FCS National Awards banquet on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas – on the eve of the national championship game.