For Josh Straughan, Sunday’s FCS National Bowl is a rebirth of sorts.
Earlier this fall, the senior transfer from Stillman College appeared well on his way to breaking passing records for Southern Illinois University. Through eight games, Straughan had thrown for 2,429 yards while completing 67.38 percent of his passes. In addition, he had 15 touchdowns while being intercepted just four times.
However, SIU was just 2-6 at those eight starts. First-year Saluki head coach Nick Hill decided to make changes in his lineup.
“We weren’t winning and had just lost to Missouri State (38-35),” Straughan said last week. “That was one of my better games, but the coaches wanted to go with the younger guy in (sophomore) Sam Straub to get him him some reps for next season. We couldn’t have made the playoffs at that point so the focus was on next season. That’s what they told me.”
Given the fact that his season was going so well that decision wasn’t easy for Straughan to take.
“Not at all, but I had to accept it,” he said. “I still did everything that I could. I still prepared the same way and tried my best to help Sam out during the games.”
Which brings us to Sunday. The FCS National Bowl, which is also open to players from Division II and Division III, will be played at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. Thirteen NFL teams and five Canadian Football League teams sent scouts to last year’s game.
“It will be a fun experience to cap my senior season off,” Straughan said. “Things didn’t go exactly how I wanted to them at SIU. It will be a good time to showcase myself and also enjoy a game that I love. It’s a great opportunity for me and I’m excited about it.”
Straughan will have a familiar face to connect with Sunday as SIU wide receiver Billy Reed will join him on the American team roster.
“(Billy’s) body position and his strength (are his assets as a receiver),” Straughan said. “He’s got really good body control.”
Reed, a Lockport (Ill.) High School graduate, led the Salukis with 45 receptions.
“Two of my old teammates from Stillman who transferred to Arkansas Tech are playing in it too,” Straughan said.
Last year three SIU players participated in the FCS National Bowl: defensive end Adam Brandt, offensive lineman Garrett Clark and quarterback Mark Iannotti. Eastern Illinois defensive back and returner Antoine Johnson also played.
Illinois FCS Players in the National Bowl
Steven Mercado, DL, Western Illinois
Josh Straughan, QB, Southern Illinois
Billy Reed III, WR, Southern Illinois
La’Darius Newbold, DB, Illinois State