What started as one of the worst periods of Miguel Maysonet's football career quickly led to his best opportunity.
When Hofstra University dropped its football program after Maysonet's freshman season in 2009, Stony Brook University wasn't far away on Long Island, N.Y., and it offered the scholarship that it first extended to the running back when he was a high school senior starring in Suffolk County at Riverhead High School.
"Hofstra dropping the program was probably the best thing that ever happened to me," Maysonet said today.
Some would say it was the worst thing to happen to defenses in the Big South Conference.
Maysonet has been a dominant force in all three of his seasons at Stony Brook. But he saved his best for last this year while the senior became a finalist for the 26th Walter Payton Award, which will be presented Monday night to the outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein and Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke are the other two players invited to the announcement of the award.
Maysonet became the first Stony Brook player to go over 1,000 rushing yards in three consecutive seasons and led the Seawolves to a share of their fourth straight conference title and into the FCS playoffs for the second straight season. They won a first-round game for the second straight year as well.
"Everyone is a team player and everyone has bought into what we're doing," Maysonet said. "A lot of them on the team, they're more excited for me about this Walter Payton Award than I am. I'm not really worried about it, I'm just going out there just trying to have fun and do what I do to help us keep winning."
After arriving at Stony Brook, coach Chuck Priore had a unique plan for Maysonet - he put him in a running back rotation, first with fellow Hofstra transfer Brock Jackolski in 2010 and '11, then with Iowa transfer Marcus Coker this season. But it's not as though the Seawolves failed to feed the ball to Maysonet continuously - he had over 250 carries in each of the past two seasons. They just knew how to keep Maysonet fresh and make him even more dangerous.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder with the shifty running style became the Big South's all-time leading rusher, was the FCS' leading rusher during the regular season, averaging 156.5 yards per game. He had 1,721 yards, scored 21 touchdowns and averaged over 7.7 yards per carry during the regular season.
Including two FCS playoff games, Maysonet rushed for a Stony Brook and Big South record 1,964 yards on 267 carries with 23 total touchdowns.
"At the end of the day, I just want to win, whether I take two carries a day or 40 carries a day," Maysonet said.
"I'm just looking for the holes that our amazing offensive line creates for us. It shows we have a great offensive line because we have two backs out there, and when one of us is in, we don't miss a beat. We're both having great years, getting over 100 yards a game together at the same time. It shows that we have a great O-line. When I'm out there, I'm just trying to do what the coaches ask of me, just do my job out there, gaining yards and doing positive plays for us."
Maysonet is hoping to become the first player in Big South history to win one of the four major FCS awards. The other three awards are the Buck Buchanan (FCS outstanding defensive player), the Jerry Rice (FCS freshman of the year) and the Eddie Robinson (FCS coach of the year).