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Eastern Washington University Football

EWU quarterback Eric Barriere wins Walter Payton award for the FCS Offensive Player of the Year

Eastern Washington University's Eric Barriere, seen in an early-season game against Central Washington, was named the FCS Offensive Player of the Year.  (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Eric Barriere entered his final season at Eastern Washington with two aims.

One was to win a national championship. The other was to play well enough to win the Walter Payton Award.

As of Friday night, he went 1 for 2.

Barriere was named the best offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision on the eve of the national title game at a ceremony in Frisco, Texas, becoming the fourth Eastern Washington player to earn the distinction.

“This is a great feeling. I’ve put in a lot of work throughout my college years and have been through a lot of adversity,” Barriere said after receiving the award. “To finally have this moment, to be at this awards show with a lot of great people, is a huge honor.”

Last year, Barriere finished second in Walter Payton Award voting to Cole Kelley, the Southeastern Louisiana quarterback who was again up for the award this season.

But Barriere’s performance this fall proved to be the more convincing one.

He led the Eagles to a 10-3 record and one playoff victory, threw for 5,070 yards, completed 46 touchdown passes and rushed for another 222 yards and four scores.

In his career, Barriere ranks third all time in the FCS in total offense (15,394), third in passing yards (13,809) and is tied for fourth in passing touchdowns (121). Each of those is a Big Sky – and Eastern Washington – record.

Barriere’s mother, sister, aunts and head coach, Aaron Best, as well as other Eastern staff members, were on hand in Texas to watch the quarterback become the fourth Eastern Washington player to win the award, joining receiver Cooper Kupp (2015) and quarterbacks Bo Levi Mitchell (2011) and Erik Meyer (2005).

No other FCS program has won more Walter Payton trophies in the 35-year history of the award, named after the NFL Hall of Fame running back who played college football at Jackson State University, an FCS program.

“I’m thankful, I’m thankful every day,” Barriere said. “The first book I ever read was a Walter Payton book, so to see everything come full circle is kind of crazy. It’s a blessing. I’m up there with a lot of great people, and I will forever be thankful.”

The award winner was selected by a 50-member national media panel, who voted at the end of the regular season. Kelley finished second this year, followed by East Tennessee State running back Quay Holmes.

This is the latest and most prestigious in a string of honors collected this season by Barriere. Last fall he became a two-time recipient of the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year Award, and earlier this week he was named the FCS Athletic Directors Association

Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight year.

Two years ago, Barriere finished fifth in the voting for the Walter Payton Award.

The season before that, Barriere was the Eagles’ quarterback when they lost in the national title game to North Dakota State.

Big Sky member Montana State faces North Dakota State in the national championship game Saturday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco.