It certainly is the year of the freshman quarterback. Nine days after Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M won the Heisman Trophy, Villanova quarterback John Robertson took home the Jerry Rice Award, given to the Football Championship Subdivision freshman of the year.
Robertson was especially pleased to win the award named after Rice, who attended the event Monday night at the Sheraton Society Hill hotel.
"I remember being younger and playing video games and having him as my wide receiver," Robertson said.
Villanova coach Andy Talley, named FCS coach of the year in 1997, presented the Eddie Robinson Award to this year's top coach, Craig Bohl of North Dakota State. Talley finished second in the voting.
Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke won the Walter Payton Award, given to the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Heinicke, a sophomore, led the FCS with 5,076 yards passing.
Montana State defensive end Caleb Schreibeis won the Buck Buchanan award as the FCS' most outstanding defensive player.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Robertson directed the Wildcats to an 8-4 record and a share of the Colonial Athletic Association championship, and ended his season with a loss to Stony Brook in the FCS playoffs. He did not start the season opener against Temple.
"When I was preparing, I was telling myself I was going to play," Robertson said. "Because I knew if I had a shot, I wanted to be able to be ready."
Including the playoff game, Robertson ran 189 times for 1,021 yards and 14 touchdowns. He became the fifth player and first quarterback in Wildcats history to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a season.
"They can't play straight pass because they have to be ready for me to run the ball," Robertson said.
Robertson completed 152 of 253 passes for 1,965 yards and 14 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He had a 138.05 passing-efficiency rating.
He credits his redshirt season as a big factor in his success.
"It definitely helped out a lot because coming in from high school to college, just the playbook and everything you have to get used to it," Robertson said. "This year, I felt comfortable and was able to just play."
Villanova graduate Brian Finneran, the winner of the Walter Payton Award in 1997, presented the award.
Robertson said he expects opponents to know who he is next season.
"They're definitely going to have to come more prepared than this year, because they didn't know of me," Robertson said. "But I'm not really worried because we're going to have a lot of weapons. If they want to stack the box and try to stop the run, we're going to have a lot of receivers, too."