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Walter Payton Award Finalist: Eric Breitenstein
December 11, 2012
Having grown up in a football family, Wofford College fullback Eric Breitenstein learned the stomach is the fastest way to an offensive lineman's heart.
Apparently Wofford offensive linemen are not themselves without their Snickers.
Breitenstein laughs that he can't afford to buy steak dinners for the linemen, so after every game the last three seasons, he has shown his appreciation by giving each one a Snickers bar.
"I grew up understanding who does all the real work," Breitenstein said. "And my offensive line, the whole time I've been here, and especially this year, has just been phenomenal. They make it easy on me. Snickers is just a little way to say thank you."
The linemen are appreciative of Breitenstein regardless of their treats. The fifth-year senior helped fuel the Terriers' success over his career, and he ended it this past Saturday as the active leading rusher and scorer among all players in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Having set the Wofford single-season rushing record this season, Breitenstein hopes to run off with the 26th annual Walter Payton Award, which will be given to the outstanding player in the FCS Monday night. Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke and Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet are the other two players invited to the announcement of the award.
"I keep saying this, but I feel like I'm a product of the system because all I've done is my job here," he said. "When you get the ball, you've got to be productive with it. That's really what I feel like I've done these past five years. Wofford's just given me an opportunity, and I think I've taken it and run with it a little bit."
Breitenstein (pronounced Bright-en-stine) spent his high school years living near the campus of Wofford's Southern Conference rival Appalachian State. His grandfather was Appalachian State's head coach in 1959 and his father, Steven, was the offensive line coach at Eric's high school, and later devised the Snickers idea.
Breitenstein was impressed by Wofford's style under coach Mike Ayers, especially the Terriers' unique triple option offense. While most people reveled in Appalachian State's historic win at the University of Michigan to open the 2007 season, Breitenstein was more impressed a few weeks later when the Terriers beat Appalachian State.
After accepting a scholarship to the tiny liberal arts college in Spartanburg, S.C., Breitenstein learned the triple option as a freshman in 2008, and took to it as a 5-foot-10, 230-pound fullback, but hardly the plodding type.
The environmental studies major suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2009, but gained a medical hardship, and led the offense over the last three seasons. Wofford won a share of the SoCon championship in both 2010 and this season. Breitenstein surpassed his own school record as a senior, finishing with 2,035 yards and 19 touchdowns on 244 carries. He also set the conference's single-game record with 321 rushing yards in a Sept. 29 win over Elon.
"I try to think that no one person is going to bring me down," said the three- time first-team All-America, who had 5,730 rushing yards and 65 touchdowns in his career. "That's really what I'm focused on. I'm going to fall forward for extra yards and not let one person take me down. If there's an option of running out of bounds, I'd rather not. I'd like to cut it back and get a few more yards."
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