By CHASE HARTSELL | For The Arkadelphian
The Little Rock Touchdown Club honored three players from Arkadelphia’s two universities on Friday as a part of its annual awards banquet at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Little Rock. Ouachita running back TJ Cole received the Darren McFadden Award for Arkansas’ most outstanding collegiate running back, while Ouachita offensive lineman Peyton Stafford and Henderson State wide receiver Xavier Malone earned recognition as their schools’ respective MVPs for 2022.
Cole, who was also named a Harlon Hill Award finalist and an AFCA First-Team All-American this season, was hand-picked by legendary Arkansas running back Darren McFadden for the award. A native of Texarkana, Texas, Cole set school single-season records for rushing yards (1,672) and rushing touchdowns (26) in 2022. He also owns Tiger records for most rushing touchdowns in a game (6) and rushing touchdowns in a career (49).
After receiving the McFadden trophy from promoter David Bazzel, Cole gave an acceptance speech in appreciation of those who helped him on his football journey. He saved his final thank you for a special individual.
“Last and foremost, I want to thank my mother for helping me every step along the way,” Cole said. “From the long nights to late-night phone calls, I can’t thank you enough for everything.”
Cole most recently participated in the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas, alongside teammate Hunter Swoboda.
The Little Rock Touchdown Club honored Peyton Stafford as Ouachita’s team MVP for 2022. An offensive lineman from Amarillo, Texas, Stafford was named both an athletic and an academic All-American at the conclusion of the season. He was also a semi-finalist for the National Football Foundation’s Campbell Trophy, which is often referred to as college football’s “Academic Heisman.”
Earlier in January, Stafford received the Blair Cherry Memorial Award which, according to the Amarillo Globe-News, honors an outstanding collegiate athlete that attended high school in Amarillo. The City of Amarillo later declared that January 3, 2023, would now be known as Peyton Stafford Day.
Xavier Malone, a wide receiver from Mound Bayou, Mississippi, earned the nod as Henderson State’s team MVP. His 2022 stat line, which included 67 receptions for 1,382 yards and 15 touchdowns, earned him a unanimous First-Team All-GAC selection and a D2Football.com First-Team All-America selection.
When presenting Malone as Henderson’s MVP, Rex Nelson, who serves as play-by-play for rival Ouachita, described him as “one of the finest receivers I have ever had the honor of watching at the Division II level; really at any level.”
Other Great American Conference honorees included Arkansas Tech MVP Jesus Zizumbo, Southern Arkansas MVP Jariq Scales, Arkansas-Monticello MVP Damarous White, and Harding MVP Cade Pugh.
The Little Rock Touchdown Club also recognized Colorado School of Mine’s John Matocha as the winner of the 2022 Harlon Hill Award for Division II’s most outstanding player. Ferris State’s Caleb Murphy received the Cliff Harris Award as the nation’s best defensive player at a small college.
For more information about the Little Rock Touchdown Club and additional award winners from Friday’s banquet, please visit lrtouchdown.com.