By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The first watch list for the 2013 Walter Payton Award is fast approaching on July 8.
Should we discount the chances of over half the 20 nominees?
Hopefully not, but the award honoring the outstanding player in the FCS - the Heisman of the FCS - has been won by a quarterback for nine straight years.
It's basically the same scenario with the actual Heisman Trophy, as 11 of the last 13 winners have been quarterbacks (although officially USC running back Reggie Bush had to vacate the 2005 Heisman).
No doubt the recent winners of these two longstanding awards reflect the increased rise of passing games across college football. Sorry, Jamaal Branch, you're in the rear-view mirror. Earl Campbell, those were the days.
Prior to the shift, the Heisman was once dominated by running backs. And running backs once outnumbered the quarterbacks in Payton Award winners. The count was nine running backs, seven quarterbacks and one wide receiver before William & Mary's Lang Campbell started the current run of QB winners in 2004. During that time, we've even watched Armanti Edwards at Appalachian State become the only two-time winner of the award.
The Payton, as well as the other three major awards in the FCS - the Buck Buchanan (FCS outstanding defensive player), the Jerry Rice (FCS freshman of the year) and the Eddie Robinson (FCS coach of the year - has a panel of about 175 voters across the nation, including sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries, so all the conferences have a say and any regional biases won't rule the day.
Quite simply, the style of play across the nation is making it hard to deny the quarterbacks. The last three Payton winners have led the FCS in passing yards per game.
That's not to say the best statistics should win the Payton, or the Heisman, or any award, for that matter. But when a candidate has big numbers, it makes one take a closer look at him, and many times it shows a player who put his team on his back and lifted it to a higher level.
The Payton Watch List can change, and surely will, during the season depending on production injuries and other factors. This year is a big one for elite returning running backs (http://tinyurl.com/bqqc2ku), so the many top quarterbacks across the nation (http://tinyurl.com/cwsc8vs) will have their hands full for the coveted award.
Who knows, maybe a wide receiver or a big old lineman will win the Payton for a change.
06/20 13:18:40 ET