Monmouth's Jaden Shirden finalist for Walter Payton Award as nation's best FCS football player

Following a remarkable sophomore season at Monmouth, West Haven native Jaden Shirden may be running out of room in his trophy case. On Saturday he could win his most prestigious award yet. 

The running back from St. Joseph (2016-2019) is one of three finalists for the Stats Perform Walter Payton Award, which is given to the top offensive player at the FCS level for Division I football. 

Shirden will attend the FCS National Awards Banquet in Frisco, Texas on Saturday, and will be competing with Fordham quarterback Tim DeMorat and quarterback Lindsey Scott from University of Incarnate Word. Some notable previous winners of the award include Cooper Kupp, Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. 

"I am looking forward to it, I am really happy just to be there for my team, for my family, and for myself," Shirden said. "I am really excited, and if I win I'll be more than happy just to be there with the greats that have won it in the past."

It is hardly a surprise that Shirden has garnered this much national attention after a quick glance at his stat line. Shirden led all of Division I with 1,722 rushing yards. He also led the FCS in yards per carry (8.36) and rushing yards per game (156.5). Shirden surpassed the 200-yard rushing mark in four games, while gaining over 100 yards in nine games. 

Named ECAC Offensive Player of the Year, eight of Shirden's 13 touchdowns went for over 50 yards for a an FCS best 52.8 yards per touchdown run. His best individual game came against Fordham on September 10th, as Shirden rushed for 299 yards on 12 carries for two touchdowns. 

"I had a goal in mind, and that was to get over 1,000 yards and to be an All-American," Shirden said. "I have to say I kind of over accomplished a little bit. I just really worked hard and stayed focus and I have to give credit to my coaches, my offensive line and most importantly god for the opportunity."

Shirden has already been named to eight All-American teams for this past fall season, including STATS Perform First Team All-America, FCS ADA All-America Team, AFCA FCS All-America First Team Running Back, Athlon Sports FCS All-America Team and FCS AP All-America Second Team Running Back. 

"At first the goal was to finish first in the conference and top three in the whole of D1," Shirden said. "I just kept taking it to a whole other level and I realized I could end up as number one. Now me, I am very competitive, so I was ready to compete against the whole nation. Not just for yards but three different categories, including yards per carry and yards per game."

Shirden is no stranger to the spotlight. He was named the 2019 Walter Camp Player of the Year in 2019 for St. Joseph High School, where his team made the state championship in all four years, winning the latter three at the Class S, M and L divisions. 

With 5,529 career rushing yards, Shirden ranks 12th all time in the state of Connecticut for high school football. He ranks third all-time with 107 career touchdowns, including 33 in playoff games. Shirden was also a New Haven Register First Team All-State selection as a senior.

"I love representing Connecticut, no doubt," Shirden said. "People have told me I am putting CT on the map, hopefully a kid can see this and they know that anything they want to do in life, they can do. I want to be a role model to anybody, and it means a lot especially coming from where I grew up."

After his four year career at St. Joseph, Shirden made the next move in his career.  

"I decided to do a post-graduate year at Cheshire Academy with the pandemic in 2020," Shirden said. "I think we only played two games, and then I ended up going to Monmouth."

As a true freshman at Monmouth, Shirden appeared in 11 games and earned three starts, rushing for 497 yards on 77 carries with three touchdowns. It was the prelude of what was to come. 

"I am still taking everything in honestly," Shirden said. "Really I am trying to get back, the goal is to come back here again and duplicate what I did. When the season ended I was thinking wow, where do we go from here."

Shirden has spent his winter break back home in West Haven, where he has achieved celebrity status of sorts. 

"A lot of people have come up to me, it has been nothing but love and I really appreciate everything," Shirden said. "All of their kind words and all of their support honestly."