The annual Stats Perform FCS Award’s Banquet took place on Saturday night on the eve of the 2023 FCS national title game and this year’s individual national awards were handed out. While the Eddie Robinson, Doris Robinson and Jerry Rice Awards were announced last month, the two major accolades, the Walter Payton and Buck Buchanan Awards, were revealed at the banquet.
Here are this year’s winners.
Walter Payton Award: Mark Gronowski, QB - South Dakota State
South Dakota State quarterback Mark Gronowski will take home this year’s Walter Payton Award. The junior signal-caller threw a career-best 28 touchdowns this fall and eclipsed 2,800 total passing yards for a second consecutive season. Gronowski also took extremely well care of the ball in 2023, only throwing four interceptions in the 14 games he’s played so far. He averaged 205.9 passing yards per contest and accounted for 35 scores this season. Gronowski becomes the first SDSU player to ever win the Walter Payton Award and is the eighth straight quarterback to claim the accolade dating back to the 2015 season. He will look to join a rarified club of only four players to take home the award and a national championship in the same season.
Buck Buchanan Award: Terrell Allen, DE - Tennessee State
Tennessee State defensive end Terrell Allen is the winner of this year’s Buck Buchanan Award. Allen put together an outstanding season in the trenches for the Tigers, racking up and FCS-best 14.5 sacks and 65 total tackles. He also accounted for a staggering 28 tackles for loss in 2023 and forced five fumbles this year, tying him for first among all FCS defenders in that category. Allen also recovered a fumble and knocked away one pass. He was an absolute nightmare for opposing offenses in the run game and helped TSU’s defense allow under 200 rushing yards per game. He becomes the first Tennessee State player to ever win the Buck Buchanan Award and is also the first defensive end to take home the hardware in three years.
Jerry Rice Award: Eli Gillman, RB - Montana
The FCS’ best freshman this year by resounding vote was Montana running back Eli Gillman. The rookie tore it up in 2023 and helped the Grizzlies reach the title game for the first time in 14 years. A native of Dassel, Minnesota, Gillman made an immediate impact for UM this season and was a huge part of what the team did on offense. He’s found the end zone 12 times and ran for 950 yards this fall. He becomes the first Montana player to claim a national accolade since linebacker Dante Olson won the Buck Buchanan Award in 2019. Gillman is also the second consecutive Big Sky player to claim the Jerry Rice Award, following in the footsteps of Idaho QB Gevani McCoy who took home the honor last year. He is the first Griz player to be named a Jerry Rice Award recipient since the honor started being given out in 2011.
Eddie Robinson Award: Jimmy Rogers - South Dakota State
For the second year in a row the Eddie Robinson Award goes to a Jackrabbits head coach but this year it's given to Jimmy Rogers who replaces last fall's winner and longtime head man John Stiegelmeier. Rogers, who served on Stiegelmeier's staff, was promoted to the position after last season and has done nothing but win since. SDSU went undefeated this year and are on the verge of taking home another national title. The Jackrabbits were wire-to-wire the #1 team in the land this season and having a steady hand behind the headset is a major reason why. Rogers winning the award marks the first time since Craig Bohl won it in 2012 and 2013 that a coach from the same team has taken home the accolade two years straight. Rogers and Stiggelmeir are the only two SDSU coaches to ever be given the honor.
Doris Robinson Award: Tommy Mellott, QB - Montana State
Given annually to the FCS' top scholar-athlete, the Doris Robinson Award reflects the pinnacle of leadership on and off the field. This year's recipient is Montana State quarterback Tommy Mellott. Mellott, a junior, has been community-oriented during his time with the Bobcats. Not only has he gotten MSU to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons as a starter, he's volunteered over 200 hours of community service work and is maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Mellott is majoring in financial engineering and is partnered with a non-profit whose mission is to raise awareness of and aid in the prevention of suicide in Montana. Since the Doris Robinson Award was first handed out nine years ago, Mellott is the first Big Sky player to win it.