By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Each knew he was being considered for the Walter Payton Award, yet none focused on it.
Instead, quarterbacks Chris Lum of Lehigh and Bo Levi Mitchell of Eastern Washington and running back Shakir Bell of Indiana State kept tunnel vision toward their next opponent.
No distractions, just production.
The national awards banquet will be held on the eve of the FCS Championship Game at the Embassy Suites/Frisco Convention Center. In addition to the Payton Award, the Eddie Robinson Award for FCS coach of the year will mark its silver anniversary and will be presented along with the Buck Buchanan Award, which is given to the FCS' outstanding defensive player, and the inaugural Jerry Rice Award, which honors the FCS' freshman of the year. The Sports Network also presents and Fathead.com sponsors those three honors.
The three top vote-getters for the Payton Award put together glowing resumes this season.
Bell, a 5-foot-7, 185-pound sophomore, was the No. 1 rusher in the FCS during the regular season, gaining 1,670 yards and 14 touchdowns on 230 carries, for 151.8 yards per game on a scintillating 7.3 yards per carry. The Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year had four 200-yard games and missed a fifth one by one yard, helping Indiana State to a 6-5 record as it continued a remarkable turnaround as a program.
"I told my coach after my freshman season that I was going to make a difference on the team," Bell said.
"Actually to be considered for the Walter Payton Award, it just helps me think that I worked a little bit harder."
"It's a great feeling of getting this recognition on a national level. But I've always been one to try to stay grounded and be focused week to week and make sure I'm still a good example for the rest of the team," Lum said.
"It's definitely not a one-man show. I have an amazing supporting cast and because of their hard efforts and my hard efforts we're having this success."
Mitchell, a 6-2, 210-pound senior, led the FCS in passing yards (4,009) and touchdown passes (33) in the regular season. As Eastern Washington (6-5) suffered through an injury-plagued season, the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year helped keep the Eagles competitive, completing 318-of-503 attempts (63.2 percent), with four 400-yard games. He had 13 interceptions.
A Texas native, Mitchell will return to Frisco, where last season he was the Most Outstanding Performer in Eastern Washington's FCS Championship Game victory.
"I just tried to go out and do what you're supposed do. If those (honors) come, they come," Mitchell said.
"It became easy to me because of how good my teammates were."
They were followed by Towson running back Terrance West, Sam Houston State running back Tim Flanders, New Hampshire quarterback Kevin Decker, Bryant running back Jordan Brown, Jackson State quarterback Casey Therriault, Murray State quarterback Casey Brockman, Northern Iowa quarterback Tirrell Rennie, Montana State quarterback DeNarius McGhee, Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein, Appalachian State wide receiver Brian Quick, Delaware running back Andrew Pierce, Liberty quarterback Mike Brown, Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen, Youngstown State running back Jamaine Cook, Idaho State wide receiver Rodrick Rumble, Eastern Kentucky running back Matt Denham and Richmond wide receiver Tre Gray.