Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - There's so much to be said for the
comfort level that familiarity brings to an athlete.
Fordham quarterback Michael Nebrich has found it in a coach and offensive
system. Lehigh wide receiver Lee Kurfis and Samford all-purpose back Fabian
Truss have found it in FCS programs close to their hometowns.
The three players' stellar play in the first half of the season led on Tuesday
to Nebrich, Kurfis and Truss becoming candidates for the 27th annual Walter
Payton Award, which will be presented by The Sports Network to the outstanding
player in the FCS following the regular season.
This year's winner will join a list of Payton Award greats such as Steve
McNair, John Friesz, Brian Westbrook, Tony Romo, Brian Finneran and Armanti
Nebrich, a 6-1, 205-pound junior, transferred from the University of
Connecticut to Fordham before the 2012 season, following his former offensive
coordinator with the Huskies after Joe Moorhead became the Rams' head coach.
Behind Nebrich this season, Fordham has posted its first 7-0 start since 1930,
beating such teams as Temple, Villanova and Lehigh. He ranks third in the FCS
with 365.6 yards of total offense per game. He has completed nearly three-
quarters of his pass attempts, 190-of-256 (74.2 percent), for 2,166 yards and
17 touchdowns with only one interception. He also has rushed for 393 yards and
Kurfis, a 6-2, 190-pound senior, attended high school in West Chester, Pa.,
before he enrolled at nearby Lehigh. He has been unstoppable this season,
leading both the Patriot League and the FCS in receptions (64) and receiving
yards (934) while the Mountain Hawks have started the season with a 5-1 record.
He opened the campaign with back-to-back games of at least 200 receiving yards
and two touchdown receptions. Dating back to last season, he has posted seven
straight games of at least 100 receiving yards. His 14 receptions against
Columbia this past Saturday tied the school record for a single game.
Truss, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior, stayed in his hometown of Birmingham,
Ala., to attend Samford. He is one of the most versatile offensive players in
the FCS and its active leader in all-purpose yards. This season, he leads the
nation in all-purpose yards per game (226.3) on a mix of rushes, receptions,
and kickoff and punt returns. He has scored nine touchdowns, including two on
kickoff returns, during Samford's 5-2 start. Having finished third nationally
in all-purpose yards per game as a junior, he is on pace to post a second
straight season of at least 1,000 rushing yards.
Other nominees on the Watch List are quarterbacks Vernon Adams of Eastern
Washington, Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Brock Jensen of North Dakota
State, Jeff Mathews of Cornell, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State and Jerick
McKinnon of Georgia Southern; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona,
Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Isaiah Crowell of Alabama State, Timothy
Flanders of Sam Houston State, Kyle Harbridge of Saint Francis (Pa.), David
Johnson of Northern Iowa, Terrance West of Towson and Zach Zenner of South
Dakota State; and wide receivers Jordan Harris of Bryant, Erik Lora of Eastern
Illinois and Walter Powell of Murray State.
Bios of all 20 players can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yhv6oh8.
Other players considered for the Watch List: Lehigh quarterback Brandon
Bialkowski; North Dakota wide receiver Greg Hardin; Montana quarterback Jordan
Johnson; Fordham running back Carlton Koonce; Colgate quarterback Gavin
McCarney; Samford linebacker Justin Shade; Central Arkansas quarterback Wynrick
Smothers; and Coastal Carolina running back Lorenzo Taliaferro.
The Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the season. Ballots
will be sent to a national panel of sports information and media relations
directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular
season. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS
Awards Presentation Dec. 16 in Philadelphia.
The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie
Robinson awards. The Buchanan Award honors the outstanding defensive player in
the FCS, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson
Award honors the FCS coach of the year. The winners of those three awards also
will be invited to the national banquet.
The Sports Network