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Eastern Washington University Football

Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere one of three finalists for Walter Payton Award

Eastern Washington Eagles quarterback Eric Barriere (3) throws against UI during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, April 10, 2021, at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. EWU won the game 38-31.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Re)

Eric Barriere was thought to be one of the most explosive and dynamic offensive players in the country heading into a 2020 season that was ultimately delayed and essentially cut in half this past winter/spring.

He still proved it.

Barriere, who completed 183 of 296 passes for 2,439 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven games, is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top offensive player at the Football Championship Subdivision level.

Barriere, who finished in the top five in Payton Award voting following the 2019 season, joins Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley and Sacred Heart running back Julius Chestnut as finalists. The winner will be announced May 15.

“If I was to win, it would be a huge honor for the school because we have had a few previous players win this award previously,” Barriere said. “If I could become a part of that, it would be a blessing.”

Kelley led the FCS in passing yards (2,662), completions (210), total offensive yards (2,708) and total touchdowns (27) after playing in seven games.

Chestnut led the FCS in rushing yards (179.3 per game) and all-purpose yards (222.0) while playing in four games.

Barriere has eclipsed more than 10,000 total yards in his career and helped EWU lead the nation in total offense (562 yards per game).

The Eagles went 5-1 during the regular season, finishing second in an abbreviated Big Sky Conference slate (five teams opted out of the spring), and reached the first round of the FCS playoffs, falling to North Dakota State 42-20 on the road last week.

Barriere hopes to be the fourth EWU star to win the award, following in the footsteps of quarterbacks Erik Meyer (2005) and Bo Levi Mitchell (2011) and receiver Cooper Kupp (2015). Former EWU quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Gage Gubrud have also been finalists for the award.

NFL figures Tony Romo, the late Steve McNair, Brian Westbrook, Jimmy Garoppolo and former Idaho Vandals and Seattle Seahawks quarterback John Friesz have won the award.

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick this week, won the award as a freshman in 2019.

“It means a lot because this is a special award that many great players before me have been a part of and won,” Barriere said. “I’m very thankful for the honor.”