It's not often wide receivers and first- year starting running backs have such vital impacts for their teams offensively.
But for receivers Erik Lora of Eastern Illinois and Cordell Roberson of Stephen F. Austin and Cal Poly slotback Deonte Williams, it has been the consistency throughout the 2012 season which has led to them being named to the 2012 Walter Payton Award Watch List on Tuesday.
The Payton Award, presented by The Sports Network, and in its 26th year, is presented to the outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Each of the three newcomers have been constant threats offensively, while providing leadership when their team have needed it most.
This year's winner will join a list of Payton Award greats such as Steve McNair, John Friesz, Brian Westbrook, Tony Romo, Brian Finneran, Armanti Edwards and 2011 recipient Bo Levi Mitchell.
Lora, a 5-foot-10, 181-pound junior, has become Eastern Illinois' most reliable target. Through the Panthers' first seven games, he has caught 83 passes for 1,129 yards and nine touchdowns. He leads the FCS in receptions per game (11.86) and receiving yards per game (161.29). In every contest this season, Lora has passed the 100-yard receiving mark. The highlight game was an FCS season-high 21 receptions for 269 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Murray State.
Roberson, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior, has been a go-to guy for Stephen F. Austin over the last three seasons. This year, he is enjoying a record- setting season. He has 68 receptions for 891 yards and eight touchdowns. He ranks third in the FCS with 9.71 receptions per game and is averaging 127.3 receiving yards per game, ranking fourth nationally. He is just the fourth player in Southland Conference history to record 200 career receptions.
Williams, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior, has been a crucial part of Cal Poly's triple option attack, having rushed for 926 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards per carry. Williams' big-play abilities have led to him leading the Big Sky Conference and ranking seventh in the FCS in rushing with 132.29 yards per game. He also has one touchdown reception.
Other nominees on the Watch List are quarterbacks Casey Brockman of Murray State, Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State, Wynrick Smothers of Central Arkansas and Brad Sorensen of Southern Utah; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Jamaine Cook of Youngstown State, Matt Denham of Eastern Kentucky, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, Miguel Maysonet of Stony Brook, Andrew Pierce of Delaware, Terrance West of Towson and Zack Zenner of South Dakota State; fullback Eric Breitenstein of Wofford; and wide receiver Aaron Mellette of Elon.
Bios of all 20 players can be found at http://tiny.cc/264bhw.
The Payton Award will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19. The top three vote-getters will be invited to the FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation on Dec. 17 in Philadelphia.
The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Buchanan Award honors the FCS defensive player of the year, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year.