(STATS) - Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus has been named the STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Year, announced today by the organization. Cookus, a late arrival to the Lumberjack program this summer, set many NAU records along the way, as his amazing story continues to be played out.
"We're thrilled for Case to receive this award," said head coach Jerome Souers. "He truly deserves all the recognition he's receiving because he's not only a great player, but a great ambassador for NAU. Our future at NAU is as bright as it's ever been and a big part of that is Case."
Cookus had zero Division 1 offers coming out of Thousand Oaks High School (Calif.), resulting in him to continue his playing career at Ventura Junior College. After a shoulder injury sidelined Cookus for what would have been his freshman year, Cookus prepared himself in the spring for the upcoming JUCO season. But understanding his talent and the want to play at the next level, Cookus sent out his film, and it was NAU that reached out to the young quarterback.
Cookus went from wide receiver his junior year of high school to quarterback his senior year. With only one full year of experience at the varsity level as quarterback, and almost two years removed from playing in an actual game Cookus landed at NAU.
"Even now if I told anyone his story I'm not sure they would believe it," said offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tim Plough. "The numbers speak for themselves. What everyone doesn't see in the stats is his passion for the game and his will to win. I've never been around a player that wants to win more than Case. That's why he's one of the best players in the country. Awards are great, but I think he has greater aspirations for this program going forward and that's exciting."
The numbers that were put up by Cookus this season were some of the best in the nation for any quarterback; not just a freshman. He broke an 11-year-old NCAA FCS freshman record for most touchdown passes in a season with 37. At the end of the regular season, Cookus had the most touchdown passes in a single game in the FCS with seven, had been responsible for seven touchdowns in a game twice, led the FCS in passing touchdowns (37), was second in passing efficiency (184.9), third in completion percentage (68.9), points responsible for (21.8), and yards per pass attempt (9.66), sixth in passing yards (3,111), and eighth in passing yards per game (282.8). He had the fewest interceptions (5) by any quarterback in the FCS with 3,000 or more passing yards.
When it came to the NAU record book, Cookus broke the season record for touchdown passes and ranked sixth all-time in NAU season passing yards. Cookus had 88 passes of 20 or more yards and 57 passes of 30 or more yards.
Not only was Cookus voted the top freshman in the nation, but he was also the only rookie being considered for national offensive player of the year honors, as he finished fifth overall in voting.
Cookus will be honored on January 8, 2016 at the STATS' national awards being held at the Embassy Suites Dallas Frisco Hotel and Convention Center in Frisco, Texas; the night before the FCS national championship game.