PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 17, 2103 /PRNewswire/ -- Jerry Rice has reason to take a liking to Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
But the legendary Hall of Fame receiver may have to realize Kupp could soar past the prodigious statistics that he produced in college.
Monday night, Kupp became the third recipient of the Jerry Rice Award, which honors the FCS national freshman of the year. Rice was on hand at The Sports Network's national awards banquet to present the trophy.
Kupp won by the biggest margin in the three-year history of the award, gaining 80 of the 147 first-place votes and 557 points from a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. Appalachian State running back Marcus Cox finished second with 259 points, while Sacred Heart quarterback R.J. Noel and Youngstown State running back Martin Ruiz tied for third with 202 points each.
Kupp is the first wide receiver to win the Rice Award. Towson running back Terrance West was the inaugural winner in 2011 and Villanova quarterback John Robertson won last year.
As a redshirt freshman this year, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Kupp had a breakout regular season unlike any other in FCS history by a rookie wide receiver. He caught 77 passes for the Big Sky Conference champion Eagles, setting national freshman records with 1,378 receiving yards and 18 touchdown receptions. The native of Yakima, Wash., also caught at least one touchdown pass in all 12 of the Eagles' games - a consecutive game record not just for freshmen, but all FCS receivers.
"Bigger than (the statistics), he maximizes every ounce of his talent," EWU coach Beau Baldwin said. "We all see he has talent - lots of talent - but he has a great work ethic for video study, offseason work and preparation. He understands what teams are doing defensively, how to work a release and knows our entire offense. That allows us to put him in different positions. He understands the concept of every play, not just the receiver position he is playing. We can move him around, and teams can't plan for him to be at one spot all the time - he's everywhere within our offense.
"It's hard for a freshman to do those things mentally, and then he's also been tough enough to handle hard hits and play through pain. He's a strong-minded young man with a lot of talent, but it's that mental toughness and work ethic that takes him from being a good or great player to one of the best."
Kupp continued to build on his incredible season during the FCS playoffs this month. He comes from a rich football background: His father, Craig, was a former NFL quarterback, while his grandfather, Jake, enjoyed a long NFL career as an offensive guard.
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SOURCE The Sports Network