Three Jackrabbits named to Payton Award watch list

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CHICAGO – Three South Dakota State standouts are among the 35 players named Wednesday to the preseason watch list for the 2022 Walter Payton Award, which is presented annually by Stats Perform to the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Representing the Jackrabbits on the initial watch list are running back Isaiah Davis, wide receiver Jaxon Janke and tight end Tucker Kraft. The watch list will be updated periodically throughout the regular season, with a national media panel selecting the award winner prior to the FCS national championship game.

Davis, a junior from Joplin, Missouri, is expected to fill the featured back role after playing alongside two-time Walter Payton Award finalist Pierre Strong, Jr. the past two seasons. Davis missed most of the 2021 regular season due to injury, but managed to finish second on the team with 701 rushing yards and seven touchdown after three consecutive 100-yard games in the FCS playoffs. He has averaged nearly eight yards per carry through his first two seasons in a Jackrabbit uniform.

A senior from Madison, Janke posted team highs of 72 receptions and 1,165 receiving yards in 2021, while adding five touchdowns. He caught at least two passes in all 15 games last season and tallied 100-plus receiving yards in seven contests, including four in a row to close out the regular season.

Kraft emerged as another top receiving target for the Jackrabbits last season, catching 65 passes for 780 yards and six touchdowns. A junior from Timber Lake, Kraft notched three 100-yard games and hauled in at least two receptions in all 15 games of the 2021 campaign.

The preseason watch list for the 2022 Buck Buchanan Award, given annually to the top defensive player in the FCS, will be announced on Thursday.

2022 Walter Payton Award Watch List


Nic Baker, Southern Illinois, Jr., 5-9, 194

Tim DeMorat, Fordham, Gr., 6-4, 220 (2020 and 2021 Finalist)

Nick Howard, Dartmouth, Sr., 6-2, 230.

Parker McKinney, Eastern Kentucky, R-Jr., 6-3, 208

Tommy Mellot, Montana State, So., 6-0, 195

Shedeur Sanders, Jackson State, So., 6-2, 215

Lindsey Scott Jr., Incarnate Word, Sr., 5-11, 220

Trae Self, Stephen F. Austin, Sr., 6-4, 190

Jason Shelley, Missouri State, Sr., 5-11, 197 (2021 Finalist)

Xavier Shepherd, Kennesaw State, Jr., 6-0, 205 (2021 Finalist)

Reece Udinski, Richmond, Gr., 6-4, 220

Running Backs

Jake Chisholm, Dayton, Sr., 5-9, 191 (2021 Finalist)

Isaiah Davis, South Dakota State, Jr., 6-1, 220

Juwon Farri, Monmouth, R-Sr., 5-10, 195 (2020 Finalist)

Ailym Ford, Chattanooga, Jr., 5-9, 213

Narii Gaither, Gardner-Webb, Sr., 5-10, 181

Ulonzo Gilliam Jr., UC Davis, Sr., 5-9, 189

Malik Grant, Sacred Heart, Sr., 5-9, 200 (2021 Finalist)

Julien Gums, Nicholls, Sr., 5-10, 230

Darius Hale, Central Arkansas, So., 5-11, 225

Geno Hess, Southeast Missouri, Sr., 5-8, 209 (2021 Finalist)

Isaiah Ifanse, Montana State, Sr., 5-10, 202 (2021 Finalist)

Hunter Luepke, North Dakota State, Sr., 6-1, 236

Jaleel McLaughlin, Youngstown State, Sr., 5-9, 195

Jacob Saylors, ETSU, Sr., 5-11, 195

Wide Receivers

Avante Cox, Southern Illinois, Sr., 5-10, 170

Shaquan Davis, South Carolina State, R-Jr., 6-5, 215

Xavier Gipson, Stephen F. Austin, Sr., 5-9, 170 (2021 Finalist)

Taylor Grimes, Incarnate Word, Sr., 5-11, 190

Jakob Herres, Richmond, Gr., 6-4, 225 (2020 Finalist)

Jaxon Janke, South Dakota State, Sr., 6-3, 210

Xavier Smith, Florida A&M, Gr., 5-10, 170

Tight Ends

Kemari Averett, Bethune-Cookman, Sr., 6-6, 260

Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State, Jr., 6-5, 255

Ryan Miller, Furman, R-Sr., 6-2, 221


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