HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana senior quarterback Bryan Bennett is one of 20 student-athletes named to the Watch List for the 28th Walter Payton Award, which is awarded to the outstanding player of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Bennett, who finished eighth in last year’s voting, is one of six 2013 finalists on the preseason watch list. The Sports Network will present the Heisman of the FCS on Dec. 15 at the national awards banquet.
Bennett is joined by returning finalists Eastern Washington junior quarterback Vernon Adams (second in 2013), Fordham senior quarterback Michael Nebrich (fifth), South Dakota State senior running back Zach Zenner (sixth), Villlanova junior quarterback John Robertson (ninth) and Princeton senior quarterback Quinn Epperly (10th).
Also nominated to the Watch List were quarterbacks Jacob Huesman of Chattanooga, Jordan Johnson of Montana, Alex Ross of Coastal Carolina and Michael Strauss of Richmond; running backs Rob Hollomon of Central Connecticut State, DaMarcus James of Jacksonville State, David Johnson of Northern Iowa, Shepard Little of Eastern Illinois and Keshaudas Spence of Sacred Heart; wide receivers Sam Ajala of Fordham, Kenny Cook of Gardner-Webb, R.J. Harris of New Hampshire and Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington; and tight end MyCole Pruitt of Southern Illinois.
All are seniors except Adams, Huesman, Robertson and Ross, who are juniors, and Kupp, a sophomore who was named the 2013 Jerry Rice Award winner as the FCS freshman of the year.
Bennett is one of nine quarterbacks on the list. The reigning Southland Conference Player of the Year is coming off a junior campaign in which he was fourth in the nation with 4,211 total yards, helping the Lions to a Southland Conference title, a quarterfinal berth in their first NCAA FCS playoffs appearance and a No. 6 final national ranking in both FCS polls.
In his first season in Hammond after transferring from Oregon, the Granada Hills, Calif. native established himself as one of the top dual-threat signal callers in the nation. The Louisiana Offensive Player and Newcomer of the Year threw for 3,165 yards and 21 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,046 yards and a single-season school record 16 touchdowns.
The Walter Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the season, as Bennett was added in 2013 midway through the year. Ballots will be sent to a national panel of over 150 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 presentation of the award.
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 is bestowed upon the FCS coach of the year.
Past winners of the Payton include Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, Brian Finneran, John Friesz, Armanti Edwards and the 2013 recipient, Jimmy Garoppolo, this year's second-round draft choice of the New England Patriots.
Bennett and the Lions will open up the 2014 season on Aug. 30, hosting Jacksonville at 7 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium. That contest will open a six-game home schedule for SLU. Season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by contacting the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or by visiting LionSports.net or LionUp.com.
28th Walter Payton Award Watch List Vernon Adams – QB – Jr. – Eastern Washington Sam Ajala – WR – Sr. – Fordham Bryan Bennett – QB – Sr. – Southeastern Louisiana Kenny Cook – WR – Sr. – Gardner-Webb Quinn Epperly – QB – Sr. – Princeton R.J. Harris – WR – Sr. – New Hampshire Rob Hollomon – RB – Sr. – Central Connecticut State Jacob Huesman – QB – Jr. – Chattanooga DeMarcus James – RB – Sr. – Jacksonville State David Johnson – RB – Sr. – Iowa Jordan Johnson – QB – Sr. – Montana Cooper Kupp – WR – So. – Eastern Washington Shepard Little – RB – Sr. – Eastern Illinois Michael Nebrich – QB – Sr. – Fordham MyCole Pruitt – TE – Sr. – Southern Illinois John Robertson – QB – Jr. – Villanova Alex Ross – QB – Jr. – Coastal Carolina Keshaudas Spence – RB – Sr. – Sacred Heart Michael Strauss – QB – Sr. – Richmond Zach Zenner – RB – Sr. – South Dakota State