Dec. 3, 2013
Walter Payton Award Finalists | The Sports Network FCS Awards page
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - For the third straight season, a Patriot League quarterback has placed in the top-five of the Walter Payton Award voting as Fordham junior Michael Nebrich was announced as the fifth-place finisher on Tuesday.
The vote totals for places 4-20 were disclosed for the Payton Award, which honors the Most Outstanding FCS Player. Nebrich finished with 106 points to place fifth, 20 ahead of sixth-place finisher Zach Zenner of South Dakota State. Lehigh senior wide receiver Lee Kurfis came in 18th place in the voting with 10 points.
Eastern Washington sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams, Eastern Illinois senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Towson junior running back Terrance West, who Nebrich and the Rams will face in an FCS playoff game on Saturday, were the top three vote-getters. The winner will be revealed at The Sports Network's FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation in Philadelphia on Dec. 16.
Voting was based entirely on the regular season, where Nebrich put up outstanding statistics and was a perfect 11-0 as Fordham's starting quarterback to earn the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year award. He completed 284-of-379 passes (74.9%) for 3,576 yards with 28 touchdowns, and also rushed for 443 yards and eight scores. His completion percentage led the nation and is just off the FCS single-season record of 75.2%, while Nebrich also ranked in the top five nationally in passing yards per game (325.1), passing efficiency (175.4), completions per game (25.8), total offense per game (365.4) and points responsible for per contest (19.8) during the regular season.
Nebrich added to all of those numbers in Fordham's 37-27 win over Sacred Heart in the first round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday. He went 32-of-51 for 413 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 38 yards and a score. His passing yardage and total offense (451) both shattered Patriot League records for FCS playoff games, while Nebrich also tied the League's playoff record with three passing touchdowns.
Kurfis earned first-team All-Patriot League honors at wide receiver while finishing second among all FCS players in receptions (99) and third in receiving yards (1,351) during the regular season. His reception total is two off the Patriot League record of 101 set in 2003, and broke the previous school record of 96. Kurfis had seven 100-yard receiving games (including two over 200), four games with 10 or more receptions and 10 of 11 contests with seven or more catches in 2013.
The remaining three FCS major awards will be announced on Dec. 16 along with the Walter Payton Award winner. Lafayette quarterback Drew Reed, Holy Cross quarterback Peter Pujals and Bucknell running back C.J. Williams are candidates for the Jerry Rice Award, presented to the FCS Freshman of the Year. Fordham's Joe Moorhead is up for the Eddie Robinson Award, given to the FCS Coach of the Year, for the second season in a row. The Buck Buchanan Award will also be presented to the FCS Defensive Player of the Year.
Nebrich continues a trend of high finishes for Patriot League candidates in the Walter Payton Award voting. Colgate quarterback Gavin McCarney came in fifth place last season, while Lehigh's Chris Lum was one of the three finalists invited to the awards banquet in 2011 and ended up placing second in the voting. The Patriot League and Colonial Athletic Association are the only conferences with top-five finishers in each of the last three seasons. In addition, Colgate running back Nate Eachus placed sixth in the voting in 2010 and Holy Cross quarterback Dominic Randolph finished fifth in 2009 as the Patriot League has fared well for the past five years.
Patriot Leaguers have won major FCS awards five times. Colgate running backs Kenny Gamble (1987) and Jamaal Branch (2003) claimed Walter Payton Awards, while Holy Cross' Mark Duffner (1987), Lafayette's Bill Russo (1988) and Lehigh's Pete Lembo (2001) are Eddie Robinson Award winners.
For the full release from the Sports Network and the listing of vote totals for the 4th-20th place finishers, go here. For more information on all four awards, visit The Sports Network FCS Awards page