Strong picked as Payton Finalist


CHICAGO, Ill. (SDSU) — South Dakota State running back Pierre Strong, Jr., has been selected as one of 16 finalists for the Stats Perform FCS Walter Payton Award, honoring the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

A junior from Little Rock, Arkansas, Strong leads the team in rushing during the 2020-21 season with 453 yards in five games (90.6 ypg) for a Jackrabbit offense that has churned out an average of 233 rushing yards per contest. He is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has scored a pair of rushing touchdowns, while also ranking third on the squad with 12 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. Strong has rushed for 90 or more yards four times, including a season-high 124 yards on 21 carries March 13 versus Youngstown State.

Strong was on the official watch list for the Walter Payton Award for most of the 2019 season and was honored on All-America teams selected by HERO Sports (second team), the Associated Press (third team) and Phil Steele publications (third team). He ranks 10th in career rushing at SDSU with 2,587 yards.

Strong is the seventh Jackrabbit player to be named a finalist for the Walter Payton Award since the program moved to the FCS ranks in 2004, joining the following:

  • Kyle Minett, running back, 2010;
  • Zach Zenner, running back, 2012-14;
  • Jake Wieneke, wide receiver, 2015-16;
  • Taryn Christion, quarterback , 2016-18;
  • Dallas Goedert, tight end, 2016-17;
  • Cade Johnson, wide receiver, 2019.

South Dakota State was awarded the top seed in the FCS playoffs, which begin Saturday at campus sites. The Jackrabbits, 5-1 overall, will host Holy Cross in first-round action, with kickoff set for 2 p.m. Central Time at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

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