Virginia Union running back Jada Byers was named the winner of the 2022 Willie Lanier Award.
Named after the Virginia native and NFL Hall of Fame player, the award is given to Virginia’s best football player at Division II, III, or NAIA levels.
The sophomore out of Hammonton, New Jersey, ran for an NCAA-leading 1,920 yards, which neatly doubled the next-highest rushed in the CIAA. Byers also rushed for 19 touchdowns on a robust 6.8 yards per carry.
Byers averaged 174.6 yards per game and only failed to break the 100-yard threshold just once on the season when he ran for 98 yards in the season-opening 77-0 throttling of Virginia-Lynchburg. Byers ran for over 200 three times, including a season-high 317 in the Panthers’ 45-40 win over perennial D-II powerhouse Valdosta State.
“I wouldn’t say I saw this exact kind of season coming, but I saw something close to it because I always tell myself I have to do better,” Byers told The Richmond Times Dispatch. “I just go back and look at all the film and everything I did wrong. I never go look at all the good things I did.”
The season that Byers had seemingly came as no surprise to Virginia Union head coach Alvin Parker, who said he knew Byers would be “special.”
Byers is the second Virginia Union player to claim the Lanier award, joining quarterback Shawheem Dowdy, who took the hardware in 2015.