Five PFL representatives named to Stats Perform Awards presented by FedEx Ground

Tuesday, November 21, 2023
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations

CHICAGO, Ill. – Five Pioneer Football League representatives were named finalists for national awards on Monday and Tuesday. Presented by FedEx Ground, Stats Perform named its finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award, Jerry Rice Award, Buck Buchanan Award, and the Walter Payton Award.

Drake head coach Todd Stepsis is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, presented to the FCS Coach of the Year. In his fifth season at Drake, he led Drake to its first PFL Championship since 2012 and its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division I Football Championship. The Bulldogs have won 11 straight PFL games dating back to last season and completed a turnaround from a 3-8 record last season to an 8-3 mark in 2023.

Dayton wide receiver Gavin Lochow is one of two PFL freshmen named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, which recognizes the FCS Freshman of the Year. In his first season as a wide receiver at any level, he led Dayton with 35 receptions for 402 yards and five touchdowns. He also handled kickoff return responsibilities and averaged 24.2 yards on 17 kickoff returns. He ranks second among FCS freshmen in kickoff return average.

San Diego quarterback Dom Nankil was also named as a Jerry Rice Award finalist. In eight games, he completed 109-of-186 passes for 1,158 yards and five touchdowns. He finished his freshman season with back-to-back outings, completing over 70 percent of his passes against Presbyterian and St. Thomas, throwing a touchdown in each game.

Drake defensive lineman Finn Claypool, the reigning PFL Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, did not suffer a sophomore slump and now is among the finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award, presented to the FCS Defensive Player of the Year. He helped Drake win the 2023 PFL Championship behind a 55-tackle campaign that included 19.0 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, and two pass breakups. Claypool enters the postseason ranked second among FCS defenders in sacks and is fifth in tackles for loss.

Butler running back Jyran Mitchell is the league's representative for the Walter Payton Award, which recognizes the FCS National Offensive Player of the Year. He ended the season ranked fifth among FCS running backs with 1,268 rushing yards with seven 100-yard games and a 200-yard performance at Stetson. He led the PFL in rushing and all-purpose yards, total touchdowns, scoring, and rushing yards per game.

The winners of the four awards, to be selected by a national voting panel, will be announced at the FCS National Awards Banquet on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas – the eve of the FCS championship game.