|Senior wide receiver
New Hampshire quarterback Ricky Santos headlines a group of five players who appeared on last year’s Walter Payton Award Watch and return in this year’s initial pool of 16 Payton candidates. Santos finished in second place in last year’s voting in a season where he threw for 3,797 yards and 39 touchdowns in leading the Wildcats to an 11-2 record and a trip to the I-AA quarterfinals. Santos’ teammate, wide receiver David Ball, is back on the list after finishing in seventh place last year. Ball notched 87 receptions for 1,551 yards and 24 touchdowns a year ago, and is just six touchdown receptions short of breaking the all-time I-AA mark of 50, currently held by Mississippi Valley State and San Francisco 49er great Jerry Rice. University of Northern Iowa quarterback Eric Sanders makes his first appearance on the list after leading his team to the national title game last season. Delaware running back Omar Cuff, Harvard running back Clifton Dawson and Illinois State wide receiver Laurent Robinson all return to the watch list. Eastern Washington quarterback Erik Meyer was the 2005 Walter Payton Award winner.
Five players who appeared on last year’s final Buck Buchanan Award ballot are among this year’s 16 Buchanan candidates, including a pair of linebackers that finished in the top five in the voting. Hampton linebacker Justin Durant placed third in the balloting after notching 124 tackles and five sacks, while Elon linebacker Chad Nkang tallied 152 tackles and 18.5 tackles for a loss and finished fifth in the voting. Brown linebacker Zak DeOssie, Appalachian State defensive end Marques Murrell and Illinois State linebacker Cameron Siskowic also return to the Buchanan list. Cal Poly defensive end Chris Gocong won the 2005 Buck Buchanan Award, and was picked in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.
The official "Payton Watch" and "Buchanan Watch" lists will undergo three revisions prior to the distribution of ballots on November 20th. The first revisions will be announced October 11th, the second November 1st, and the third just prior to the distribution of ballots. The ballots will be mailed electronically to the media and I-AA sports information directors selected for the voting process on November 20th, and will be due Wednesday, November 22nd. The top three finalists (in terms of votes received) for the Walter Payton Award will be invited to attend the presentation, with the winner of the Award not announced until the event.
Following are the 32 current members of both the "Payton Watch" and "Buchanan Watch" lists, with additional information on each player, as well as history and facts about each of the I-AA awards, available at www.sportsnetwork.com.
"Payton Watch" Candidates (Aug. 23)
David Ball, WR, New Hampshire
Alonzo Coleman, RB, Hampton
Omar Cuff, RB, Delaware
Clifton Dawson, RB, Harvard
Jerome Felton, FB, Furman
Jon Grant, QB, UC Davis
Josh Greco, QB, Eastern Kentucky
Clay Green, RB, Jacksonville State
James Noble, RB, Cal Poly
Justin Rascati, QB, James Madison
Kevin Richardson, RB, Appalachian State
Laurent Robinson, WR, Illinois State
Eric Sanders, QB, UNI
Ricky Santos, QB, New Hampshire
Jordan Scott, RB, Colgate
Arkee Whitlock, RB, Southern Illinois