Wofford running back Eric Breitenstein (7) is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award. PHOTO CREDIT: Mike Bonner/For the Herald Journal
By Todd Shanesy
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Published: November 28, 2012
Wofford senior running back Eric Breitenstein is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, which honors the most outstanding player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
“It’s a great honor,” he said. “I think it says a lot for our team and our program. It’s pretty cool. I’m definitely honored to be a finalist.”
Breitenstein, along with Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Henicke and Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet, has been invited to the Dec. 17 postseason awards banquet held by The Sports Network in Philadelphia.
They will be joined at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel by the winners of the Buck Buchanan Award (defensive player), Jerry Rice Award (freshman) and Eddie Robinson Award (coach). Ballots were collected from a national panel of sports information directors, media relations directors, writers and other dignitaries.
Wofford (8-3) hosts New Hampshire (8-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the FCS playoffs at Gibbs Stadium.
“I’d obviously like to bring the trophy home,” Breitenstein said. “But there’s nothing I can do now to affect the voting. It’s already done. Top three is a great honor. Just to be a finalist is an award in itself.”
Breitenstein, from Valle Crucis, N.C., is back-to-back Southern Conference offensive player of the year, just the fourth player in league history to accomplish the feat. He led the SoCon with 1,643 yards, which broke his own single-season school record, and has scored 16 rushing touchdowns.
Earlier this season, Breitenstein set a Southern Conference record by rushing for 321 yards in a game against Elon. In the final home game of the season against Chattanooga, he broke Wofford’s all-time rushing record, which is now at 5,348 yards. He ranks third nationally in rushing yards per game at 150.3.
Breitenstein finished 19th in the voting for the Walter Payton Award in 2010 and 14th last season. He is the first Wofford player to be named a finalist for the honor.
“I don’t know if you could pick anyone at any level who would be more deserving,” Wofford running backs coach Aaron Johnson said. “He comes out and works every day in a way that you might not expect someone with his success to do. With all the accolades and achievements, it would be easy for him to coast through practice. He’s not that type of guy.”
The award will be announced on a Monday night, two days after the national semifinals and a little more than two weeks before the championship game Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.
“Hopefully,” Breitenstein said, “we’ll be coming off a big win and getting ready to play for a national title.”
Henicke, a sophomore from Atlanta, leads the FCS with 4,158 passing yards with 35 touchdowns, while also rushing for 377 yards and eight scores. He set a Division I single-game record with 730 passing yards and 791 total yards in a 64-61 win against New Hampshire.
Old Dominion (10-1) went 7-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association but is ineligible for the league championship because the Monarchs are leaving the CAA. They will host Coastal Carolina on Saturday.
Maysonet, a senior from Riverhead, N.Y., has rushed for 1,881 yards and has scored 23 touchdowns. The transfer from Hofstra leads the FCS with 156.5 rushing yards per game.
Stony Brook (10-2), tri-champion of the Big South, will play Saturday at Montana State. Stony Brook beat Villanova in the first round.
Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette finished eighth in voting for player of year. He finished second in the FCS with 1,398 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. Eastern Illinois receiver Erik Lora, who leads with 1,664 yards, finished fourth in the votes. Appalachian State quarterback Jamal Jackson finished 14th.
Others in the top 20, in order, were Gavin McCarney of Colgate, Casey Brockman of Murray State, Zach Zenner of South Dakota State, DeNaruis McGhee of Montana State, Jimmy Garappolo of Eastern Illinois, Wynrick Smothers of Central Arkansas, Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, Brad Sorensen of Southern Utah, Deonte Williams of Cal Poly, Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Terrance West of Towson, Matt Denham of Eastern Kentucky and Jamaine Cook of Youngstown State.
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