Chattanooga, TN (Sports Network) -
New Hampshire quarterback Ricky Santos was named the 20th winner of the Walter Payton Award tonight at the FCS College Football Awards held in Chattanooga, TN on the eve of the FCS Championship Game.
Santos threw for 2,681 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for 385 yards and 12 scores in the regular season, and directed a New Hampshire offense that threw for 249.6 yards per game and ranked third nationally with 36.5 ppg. Santos tossed only five interceptions all season, and led the Wildcats to the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Santos excelled in the first round of the postseason as well, as he threw for 318 yards and five touchdown passes to lead New Hampshire past Hampton, 41-38.
Santos got off to a fast start with five total touchdowns to lead New Hampshire to a 34-17 victory at Northwestern. He also notched five passing touchdowns in a win against Dartmouth, and exploded with five total touchdowns and 391 yards of total offense to lead the Wildcats to a 52-49 victory in a shootout against Delaware. He helped the Wildcats to a 5-0 start and the No. 1 ranking in the country for the first half of the season. Santos recorded 458 yards of total offense and five total touchdowns in a 36-35 loss in overtime at Northeastern, and continued to play well even while the Wildcats lost three out of four games. With his team?s playoff fate on the line, Santos once again notched five total touchdowns to lead the Wildcats past Rhode Island, 63-21, and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns to lift New Hampshire to a playoff spot with a 19-13 victory in overtime over Maine. Only a junior, Santos completed the regular season with 9,796 passing yards, 93 touchdown passes and only 24 interceptions in his career, and then added six more touchdown passes in the playoffs.
After finishing second in the closet race in the history of the Payton Award a year ago, Santos received 20 first-place votes and 250 points from a panel of 112 FCS sports information directors and selected media to narrowly win the 2006 Walter Payton Award. Northern Arizona quarterback Jason Murrietta was close behind with 17 first-place votes and 238 points. Southern Illinois running back Arkee Whitlock finished third with 11 first-place votes and 199 points, with Youngstown State?s Marcus Mason in a close fourth with 19 first-place votes and 195 points.
The Walter Payton Award was established in 1987 by The Sports Network.