SOMERSET, N.J. – Sacred Heart sophomore RB Julius Chestnut is among a group of 26 finalists for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award, presented annually to the FCS Offensive Player of the Year. He is the first Pioneer in program history to be named a finalist for the Walter Payton Award. In addition, first-year WR Tyrese Chambers is one of 20 finalists for the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award, given to the nation's Freshman Player of the Year.
The finalists will be voted upon based on regular season statistics by a panel over 150 sports information directors, broadcasters and writers from across the country. The winner will be announced at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet on January 10 in Frisco, Texas on the eve of the FCS National Championship Game.
Chestnut's 2019 season is one of the top individual campaigns in program history as the sophomore accumulated 1,495 rushing yards which ranks second in all of FCS and second-highest single-season total in school history. The 2018 NEC Rookie of the Year had a breakout second season with SHU, more than doubling his rookie season rushing total of 713. A true workhorse, Chestnut carried an FCS-high 293 times which also surpassed Keshaudas Spence's previous single-season school record of 281 from the 2013 season.
Chestnut compiled nine games with 100+ yards on the ground including four straight to end the season. He added 179 receiving yards on 14 catches to give him 1,674 total yards from scrimmage in 12 games which also ranks second-most in school history. His top individual performance in 2019 came on the road at Bryant as he carried a SHU Div. I record (since 1999) 43 times for a career-high 203 yards, becoming the ninth Pioneer in school history to gain 200+ yards on the ground.
Chambers being named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award marks the second straight season SHU has garnered a player on the list as Chestnut was a finalist for the same award in 2018. The go-to receiver for the Pioneer quarterback all season long, Chambers set SHU rookie records across the board with 50 receptions for 811 yards, 16.2 yards per catch and eight touchdowns. Chambers' 811 receiving yards are the fifth-most among FCS first-years, his 50 catches rank eighth, eight touchdowns are second while his 73.7 receiving yards per game and 4.5 receptions per game are fourth.
The dynamic first-year pass catcher produced four games with at least seven catches in his 11 total appearances in 2019 while he totaled 100+ receiving yards three times. He burst onto the scene with 31 catches for 563 yards (18.1 ypc) and six touchdowns over a five-game stretch from Week 2-7, all of which led the nation among FCS first-years. The top single-game outing for Chambers among at LIU where the first-year tallied eight catches for 144 yards with 2 TD in a 34-10 win over the Sharks on Sept. 21.
Chestnut joins CCSU's QB Aaron Winchester as the lone two NEC players announced as finalists for the Walter Payton Award while Chambers is the only player hailing from an NEC school to be named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award.
Sacred Heart concluded its 2019 season with a 7-5 overall record and 4-3 mark in the NEC. This is tied for the Pioneers' highest single-season win total since 2013 and marks the sixth winning season for Head Coach Mark Nofri in his eight-year tenure at the helm for SHU.