By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The season-long excellence of quarterbacks Matt Barr of Western Illinois and Denarius McGhee of Montana State, and running back Henry Harris of Southeast Missouri State, has led to their inclusion in the race for the 2010 Walter Payton Award, sponsored by Fathead.com.
A stellar 20-player Watch List will be pared to one winner of the Football Championship Subdivision's top individual honor. The Payton Award is in its 24th season and will be presented to the FCS' outstanding player at the national awards banquet on Thursday, Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas - the night before the national championship game.
Barr, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound redshirt senior, has helped fuel Western Illinois' turnaround this season. The Leathernecks have a 6-3 record after finishing 1-10 last season, when Barr played in only four games because of an injury. He is second in the FCS in passing efficiency (167.44), having completed over 62 percent of his passes for 2,438 yards and 23 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He also has rushed for 398 yards and five touchdowns to rank third in the FCS with 315.1 yards of total offense per game. The highlight was a record-shattering game against Illinois State, when he threw for six touchdowns and 452 yards, while also rushing for a 38-yard touchdown.
McGhee, a 5-9, 203-pound redshirt freshman, is playing beyond his years. He has been the top signal-caller in the quarterback-rich Big Sky Conference, ranking sixth in the FCS in total offense (296.7 yards per game) during the Bobcats' 8-2 start to the season. He has completed over 63 percent of his passes for 2,802 yards and 20 touchdowns against five interceptions, while rushing for a pair of touchdowns. In October, he threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns in a memorable 64-61 win over Sacramento State, and had back-to- back 400-yard passing performances to close out the month.
Harris, a 5-8, 185-pound redshirt senior, has led one the biggest turnarounds in NCAA Division I history. Southeast Missouri State finished 2-9 in 2009 and has started the 2010 season with a 9-1 mark. Harris leads the FCS with 219.2 all-purpose yards per game, including a school-record 1,493 yards on the ground. He also has scored 17 touchdowns. His biggest performances were 293 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Southwest Baptist, and 308 yards of total offense and three touchdowns against Austin Peay.
Barr, McGhee and Harris join the Payton Award Watch List alongside quarterbacks Mike Brown of Liberty, Thomas DeMarco of Old Dominion, Pat Devlin of Delaware, Jeremy Moses of Stephen F. Austin, DeAndre Presley of Appalachian State, Scott Riddle of Elon, Casey Therriault of Jackson State, Steve Valentino of Dayton and Chris Whitney of Villanova; running backs Nate Eachus of Colgate, Chris Evans of Samford, Taiwan Jones of Eastern Washington, Kyle Minett of South Dakota State, Chase Reynolds of Montana and Frank Warren of Grambling State; wide receiver Tysson Poots of Southern Utah; and offensive tackle Ben Ijalana of Villanova.
Other nominees were quarterbacks K.J. Black of Prairie View A&M, Michael Herrick of Northern Arizona, Cameron Higgins of Weber State, Malcolm Long of South Carolina State and Andrew Selle of Montana; running backs Jonathan Grimes of William & Mary and Devon Moore of Appalachian State; and wide receiver Matt Szczur of Villanova.
A panel of nearly 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the Payton Award winner after the regular season.
The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan and Eddie Robinson awards which are sponsored by Fathead.com. The Buchanan Award honors the FCS defensive player of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. Those two awards, like the Payton, will be presented at the national awards banquet.