By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Excellent early season play has led to four players joining the 2011 Walter Payton Award Watch List and three others being added to Buck Buchanan Award, the two highest individual awards in the Football Championship Subdivision. Both are presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com.
Joining the race for the 25th Walter Payton Award, which honors the outstanding player in the FCS, are Indiana State sophomore running back Shakir Bell, New Hampshire senior quarterback Kevin Decker, Lehigh senior quarterback Chris Lum and Idaho State junior wide receiver Rodrick Rumble. Joining the race for the Buck Buchanan Award, which is presented to the FCS' outstanding defensive player, are Presbyterian senior cornerback Justin Bethel, Prairie View A&M senior defensive end Adrian Hamilton and Northern Iowa senior linebacker L.J. Fort.
Bell ranks second in rushing yards per game (153.4) and this past weekend was one yard shy of posting his third straight 200-yard game. Rumble has set the national pace in receptions per game (11) and receiving yards per game (151.4).
Among the defensive standouts, Bethel has scored three touchdowns - two off blocked kicks and one off an interception - while making plays all over the field. Hamilton is on a three-game run in which he's been a part of 10 sacks (six solos and four assists for eight total), including four against Arkansas- Pine Bluff. Fort shares the FCS lead with four forced fumbles and has made at least a dozen tackles in each of second-ranked Northern Iowa's first four games.
Each Watch List features 20 players, and their bios can be found here.
A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on the Payton and Buchanan awards after the regular season, beginning Nov. 21. The voters also will choose winners of the inaugural Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year) and the 25th Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) to be presented at the FCS national awards banquet Friday night, Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas. The Sports Network also presents and Fathead.com sponsors those two awards.