July 12, 2012
Walter Payton Award Watch List.
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - Lehigh senior wide receiver Ryan Spadola earned his most prestigious honor in a long line of preseasons accolades on Thursday when he was selected as one of 20 initial candidates for the Walter Payton Award Watch List, presented by The Sports Network to the Most Outstanding Player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Spadola is one of eight candidates on the list for the first time, and one of four wide receivers to receive mention for the top individual award in the FCS. Spadola caught 96 passes for a Patriot League-record 1,614 yards with 11 touchdowns last season to play a major role in the success for the team and quarterback Chris Lum, who as a senior placed as the runner-up in the voting for the 2011 Walter Payton Award to recipient Bo Levi Mitchell of Eastern Washington.
Spadola's 1,614 yards were the eighth-highest single-season total in FCS history. He finished his junior season ranked second in the FCS in receiving yards per game and sixth nationally in receptions per game.
Spadola enters the 2012 season with career totals of 175 receptions, 2,760 yards and 20 touchdowns, putting him in range to finish among the top Patriot League wide receivers in each of the three categories. He has earned consecutive first-team All-Patriot League honors, and received All-America recognition in each of the past two years with numerous first-team nods following last season. He has also contributed greatly to Lehigh's overall success, as the Mountain Hawks have won consecutive Patriot League titles and advanced to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs last season. The Mountain Hawks finished in the top five nationally and won the FCS Lambert Cup as the top team in the east in 2011.
In addition to the spot on the Walter Payton Award Watch List, Spadola has already been named a first-team preseason All-American by The Sports Network and placed on the watch list as the top wide receiver in the country by College Football Performance Awards.
Two Patriot League players have won the Walter Payton Award, both running backs from Colgate. Kenny Gamble claimed the inaugural honor in 1987, while Jamaal Branch took home the hardware in 2003 as the Raiders went on to the national title game. Patriot League representatives have fared well in the final voting in recent seasons, with Lum's runner-up finish last year coming after Colgate running back Nate Eachus came in sixth place in 2010 and Holy Cross quarterback Dominic Randolph finished fifth in 2009.
The Walter Payton Award candidate list will be revised throughout the year, with players added and dropped based on performance and health. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation.
The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Buchanan Award honors the FCS defensive player of the year, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. Those three winners will join the top three Payton finalists at the national awards banquet.
For the list of 20 Walter Payton Award nominees, including links to bios and statistics for each player, click here. The initial release from The Sports Network is available here
The Patriot League football season kicks off on Aug. 30, with five teams playing on the opening weekend. Before that, the League's preseason poll and individual honors will be annouced at Patriot League Football Media on July 25 at Green Pond Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.