Five-a-Side: Jackson State's Casey Therriault

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The timing would be impeccable if Jackson State senior quarterback Casey Therriault wins the 2011 Walter Payton Award.

This season marks the 25th anniversary of the most prestigious award in the FCS - the Heisman Trophy of the division which is presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by

The legendary Payton, of course, played at Jackson State, which this season is celebrating its 100th year of football.

Of course, the Casey Therriault story isn't ordinary regardless.

It was just over two years ago that Therriault was released from jail, having served a six-month sentence for his minor part in a January 2008 incident in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., in which a 21-year-old man was killed at a bar and restaurant. At the time of the altercation, Therriault was home from junior college.

Casey Therriault is back on the Payton Award Watch List and likely to have another banner season.
The man, who was intoxicated with a blood-alcohol level of 0.27, harassed one of Therriault's friends before the incident escalated to the point in which he threw a punch at Therriault, who responded with one punch and then fled the scene.

Afterward, several others from Therriault's group began to kick and beat the man. Two weeks later, the man died from blunt force trauma.

Therriault, who was not drinking that night, took a plea deal and served six months in a county jail, while four others were handed longer sentences. Therriault's record has since been expunged.

He wasn't a hot football commodity following his jail time, but Jackson State took a chance on him in the spring of 2010 with a scholarship offer - a white player in the historically black conference.

He says he appreciates how head coach Rick Comegy and his staff treated him fairly and gave him the chance to play in Division I, and reportedly he's been a model student-athlete since he arrived at the Mississippi school.

Therriault rewarded the Tigers last year by dominating in the Southwestern Athletic Conference as a junior. He threw for 31 touchdowns and rushed for another 10 to lead the FCS in points responsible for - over 23 per game - before finishing ninth in the voting for the Payton Award

Jackson State isn't eligible for the SWAC championship this season - it received Academic Progress Rate penalties from the NCAA in May - but Therriault is back on the Payton Award Watch List and likely to have another banner season.

In Five-a-Side - In the Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Therriault discusses his past and present, and looks forward to a successful 2011 season.

Let's kick off:

TSN: What does it mean to be nominated two years in a row for the Walter Payton Award?

CT: It's a huge award. I feel honored. It's very prestigious, especially for our school. I hope I can represent our school when it comes to his legacy, his award. It's a huge accomplishment just to be nominated. It feels good.

TSN: Obviously, your story has been told before. When you look back on it, what have you learned from it?

CT: I realized how much I enjoy football and the game and your teammates - not really taking the little things for granted and going out there and giving my all and realizing this opportunity is rare.

TSN: Looking back, is there anything you feel you did right that night (in 2008) and anything you feel you didn't do right?

CT: I guess I handled the situation as best as I thought I could at the time. I shouldn't been into that, this or there, shoulda, coulda, woulda. It happened. At least I got an opportunity to kind of make it up.

TSN: How good could this year be for your team?

CT: Last year, everything was new. New offense, I was new, (there was a) new system, just new atmosphere. So we're a little more comfortable going into this next year. We know what we can accomplish. Last year, coming out of (preseason) camp, it might have been, 'What are we capable of?' I'm pretty sure we're on the same page now. We're pretty excited for our season.

TSN: What do think you did best as a player last year and what do you want to improve on this year?

CT: I think just rallying my team. It's kind of in my nature to just take the forefront a little bit. Obviously, I'm going to maintain doing that. This year, I'm going to make the smart decisions and throughout the game either try to build on our lead or don't give it up. Just put ourselves in a better position at all times.

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