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.
20: Pierre Strong Jr., RB (Sr.) — South Dakota State
Strong is the total package — size (5-foot-11, 205 pounds), speed, vision, cutting ability, patience, power, elusiveness, etc.
He immediately became one of the top FCS running backs as a redshirt freshman in the second half of 2018 when he got more carries. Strong rushed for more than 100 yards in five of the final six games and scored all 11 of his rushing TDs in those contests.
He finished 2018 with 1,116 yards, averaging 9.5 yards per attempt. Strong was named the MVFC Freshman of the Year and earned HERO Sports Freshman All-America honors.
In 2019, he was named to three different All-American teams — HERO Sports Second Team, AP Third Team, and Phil Steele Third Team.
Strong ran for 1,018 yards and eight TDs, averaging 7.1 yards a carry. Against Minnesota in the season-opener, he totaled 159 all-purpose yards (53 on the ground, 59 receiving, and 47 on kick returns).
During SDSU’s run to the national title game in the spring of 2021, Strong ran for 707 yards and three TDs in nine games. For the second-straight season, he was named to the All-MVFC First Team.
Nationally, Strong garnered First Team All-American honors from HERO Sports, the AFCA, and Phil Steele. He finished tied for eighth in voting for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top FCS offensive player.
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.