MACON, Ga. – Following a historic freshman campaign in leading the Mercer football team into the NCAA record books, John Russ has been named the Pioneer Football League Offensive Freshman of the Year as announced by the conference office Monday afternoon.
As a two-time winner of the league’s offensive player of the week honor during the regular season, Russ has now been crowned the top offensive freshman in the conference. He completed 122-of-233 passes for 1,916 yards and 21 touchdowns but was a two-way threat behind center, carrying the ball 160 times for 903 yards and another 12 touchdowns.
Behind Russ’ remarkable season, Mercer was etched into the history books as the only first-year program in NCAA Division I history to record 10 victories.
“John has had a remarkable freshman season and is certainly deserving of this honor,” said head coach Bobby Lamb. “The coaching staff put a lot on his shoulders and he stepped up and led our group of freshman into the NCAA record books and we could not be more proud of him.”
The league’s highest honor for a freshman is just the tip of the iceberg for Russ, who finds himself as a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award as the top first-year FCS player in the country.
“John studies the game and it shows week in and week out,” Lamb said. “His stats speak for themselves and he certainly deserves to be considered as the top freshman in the nation.”
The Buford, Ga., native ranks No. 2 in the country and No. 1 among freshmen in passing yards per completion, at 15.83, while his pass efficiency rating of 144.7 ranks No. 1 in the land among first-year players.
He has the most points responsible for in the country among freshmen with 204, and is tied for the national lead in passing touchdowns among freshman quarterbacks.
Russ has been in the center of national attention all season long, earning National Freshman of the Week honors by The Sports Network, recording the longest FCS pass completion in the country and completing the trifecta in the season finale with a passing touchdown, rushing score and receiving touchdown.
Picked to finish 11th in the PFL preseason poll, Russ led the Bears to a 6-2 record in conference play and a third place finish behind co-champions Butler and Marist.
Joining Russ as the PFL major award winners were San Diego’s Mason Mills as the Offensive Player of the Year, Marist’s Terrence Fede as the Defensive Player of the Year, Stetson’s Donald Payne as the Freshman Defensive Player of the Year and Marist’s Jim Parady as the Coach of the Year.
The announcement of the conference’s major award winners begins the league’s awards week. The All-PFL squads will be released Tuesday followed by the Academic All-PFL teams, Wednesday.