Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus has been named the STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Year, announced Tuesday by the organization. Cookus, a late arrival to the Lumberjack program this summer, set many NAU records along the way.
"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 I offers coming out of Thousand Oaks High School (Calif.) in 2014 and opted to continue his playing career at Ventura Junior College. After a shoulder injury sidelined Cookus for what would have been his freshman year, he began preparing himself in the spring for the 2015 JUCO season. With an ongoing goal of playing at the next level, he continued to send out film to four-year schools. After viewing his film, NAU coaches reached out to Cookus, who played wide receiver as a junior in high school and was nearly two years removed from his only season of high school experience as a quarterback.
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"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 Cookus put up 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. He had two games in which he accounted for seven touchdowns, 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.
Cookus finished fifth in voting for FCS national offensive player of the year honors. He will be honored on Jan. 8 at the STATS' national awards banquet in Frisco, Texas, on the night before the FCS national championship game.