Football Championship Subdivision

In the FCS Huddle: Robertson joins Payton Award Watch List

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Villanova University quarterback John Robertson capped his redshirt freshman season a year ago by accepting a handoff instead of giving one.

It occurred when the legendary namesake of the Jerry Rice Award presented Robertson with the FCS national freshman of the year trophy.

Considering Robertson has taken his play to an even higher level one year later, it's only natural that he joined the Walter Payton Award Watch List on Friday.

The 27th annual award, presented by The Sports Network, honors the outstanding player in the FCS. This year's winner will stand alongside a list of Payton Award greats such as Steve McNair, John Friesz, Brian Westbrook, Tony Romo, Brian Finneran and Armanti Edwards.

Speaking of Westbrook, Robertson's recent hot streak has put him in position to challenge for Westbrook's Villanova school record of 1,603 rushing yards, set in his Payton Award-winning season of 2001. With 620 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground over his last three games, Robertson has raised his season total to 1,063 rushing yards in eight games, ranking No. 1 among FCS quarterbacks and sixth overall.

Robertson puts his explosive first step to good use as both a runner and a passer in Villanova's spread offense. Ranked second nationally in completion percentage (122-of-171 for 71.3 percent), he also is second in CAA Football in total offense (296.2 yards per game), rushing (132.9 yards per game), scoring (11.2 points per game) and touchdowns (15). He also has thrown for eight touchdowns to rank tied for ninth nationally in points responsible for (138).

As a freshman last year, the lanky signal caller from Paramus, N.J., helped Villanova to the biggest turnaround in the FCS regular season - from two wins in 2011 to eight in '12 - as well as a share of the CAA title and the conference's automatic bid to the national playoffs. He then capped his year by winning the Jerry Rice Award.

"He is amazing. He's not good, he's amazing," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "He is Michael Vick-esque. He is elusive, strong and knows his offense well. In order for a team to be a championship contender, it needs to have a player like John."

Other nominees on the Watch List are quarterbacks Vernon Adams of Eastern Washington, Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Brock Jensen of North Dakota State, Jeff Mathews of Cornell, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State and Michael Nebrich of Fordham; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Isaiah Crowell of Alabama State, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, Kyle Harbridge of Saint Francis (Pa.), David Johnson of Northern Iowa, Lorenzo Taliaferro of Coastal Carolina, Fabian Truss of Samford, Terrance West of Towson and Zach Zenner of South Dakota State; and wide receivers Jordan Harris of Bryant, Lee Kurfis of Lehigh, Erik Lora of Eastern Illinois and Walter Powell of Murray State.

Bios of all 20 players can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yhv6oh8.

Other players considered for the Watch List: Princeton quarterback Quinn Epperly; Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson; and San Diego quarterback Mason Mills.

The Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the season. Ballots will be sent to a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation to be held Dec. 16 in Philadelphia.

The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Buchanan Award honors the outstanding defensive player in the FCS, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. The winners of those three awards also will be invited to the national banquet.

11/01 10:43:19 ET