Louis Ivory wins the 2000 Walter Payton Award
The junior rushed for a FCS-best 2,079 yards during the regular season for the Paladins, leading Furman to a 9-2 record and second-place finish in the Southern Conference. Ivory, who also scored 16 touchdowns on the year, accumulated his yardage on just 286 carries, for an amazing average of 7.3 yards per attempt. In leading Furman to its second consecutive trip to the FCS playoffs, Ivory became the first running back in the 80-year history of the Southern Conference to amass more than 2,000 yards in a season.
Said Furman coach Bobby Johnson: "For Louis Ivory to be recognized as the top offensive player in the country and have his name placed on a trophy named for the greatest running back of all time, Walter Payton, is the thrill of a lifetime, I'm sure, but it's an honor that he has earned through a lot of hard work, preparation, and execution. Louis has had a fine career at Furman, and his remarkable season was a major factor in our team's success this fall. Everybody associated with our football program is very happy for Louis and pleased with the fact that voters around the country recognized his consistent excellence this year."
Ivory is the second consecutive underclassman to win the honor as well as the second straight Southern Conference back. Georgia Southern fullback Adrian Peterson, who finished second in the balloting for this year's award, won the honor as a sophomore in 1999. Ivory's selection as the Payton Award winner also makes him the third consecutive running back to win the award, following Peterson and 1998 winner Jerry Azumah of New Hampshire.
Ivory's incredible 2000 season was highlighted by five 200-yard games, including a Southern Conference-record 301-yard outburst in a 45-10 win over defending national champion Georgia Southern on November 4th. The Fort Valley, GA native also posted a 232-yard game against William & Mary and 227 yards against East Tennessee State. Ivory ended his record-setting campaign with 172 yards in a 31-24 loss to Hofstra in the first round of the FCS playoffs on Nov. 25.
Ivory is just the third underclassmen to win the award, joining Peterson and former Weber State and current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Jamie Martin, who won as a junior in 1991. Ivory is the seventh running back to win the Payton Award and the third player from the Southern Conference.
Ivory received 37 first-place votes and 303 points from the panel of 90 FCS sports information directors and selected media. Following Ivory in the voting were Georgia Southern's Peterson, who finished in the top three of the voting for the third consecutive year, and Villanova tailback Brian Westbrook. Peterson and Westbrook were also in attendance at the Downtown Athletic Club, the first time the top three vote-getters have been invited to the event.
The Walter Payton Award was established in 1987 by The Sports Network.