Leading up to Week 0 games on Aug. 28, HERO Sports is going to name the best returning FCS player by jersey number, 99-0. Due to rosters being updated at different times for teams across the country and to keep things consistent, jersey numbers are based on the 2020 fall-2021 spring season.
Note: Jersey numbers are based on 2020 fall-2021 spring rosters.
7: Julius Chestnut, RB (Sr.) — Sacred Heart
Chestnut is as good of an all-around running back as you can ask for. He has the size at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds to run with power and violence and also be effective in pass protection. Chestnut is a great athlete as well with the ability to catch the ball and having great elusiveness and speed in the open field.
He’s had an illustrious career with 502 carries for 2,925 rushing yards in 27 games dating back to 2018. Chestnut has scored 26 rushing touchdowns and has added 26 receptions for 397 yards and five TDs.
After being named the NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 with 713 yards rushing and seven TDs, Chestnut earned many All-American honors in 2019 with 1,495 yards and 11 TDs on the ground.
He only played in five games in the spring of 2021, but Chestnut was still highly productive. He ran for 855 yards and nine TDs, averaging 6.9 yards a carry (No. 5 in the FCS) and 171.0 rushing yards a game (No. 1 in the FCS by more than 40 YPG).
The Pioneers won the NEC title and gave eventual semifinalist Delaware a tough game in the first round of the playoffs, losing 19-10 on the road. Chestnut ran for 138 yards and a score against the Blue Hens.
Chestnut earned several more All-American honors and finished third in voting for the Walter Payton Award, given to the best FCS offensive player. He had the most voting points out of all the running backs and finished behind Southeastern Louisiana QB Cole Kelley and Eastern Washington QB Eric Barriere.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.