PHILADELPHIA — Georgia Southern senior quarterback Jerick McKinnon was selected as one of the initial members of The Sports Network Walter Payton Award watch list, announced Monday. The Walter Payton Award is presented annually to the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
McKinnon led the high-powered Eagle offense last year as the rushing and scoring leader, accounting for 27 touchdowns. GSU claimed its ninth Division I rushing title, averaging 399.4 yards per game in 2012 and posted four of the nation’s six top single-game rushing totals.
“This is truly a blessing and I am honored that my name is on the list for the Walter Payton Award, but this wouldn’t even be possible without my teammates,” said McKinnon. “All the credit for this nomination goes to them.”
McKinnon’s 1,817 rushing yards total in 2012 placed him third on Georgia Southern’s single-season list behind Eagle legends Adrian Peterson (1,932 in 1998) and Jayson Foster (1,844 in 2007), both Walter Payton Award winners. In the Eagles’ win over Central Arkansas last December, McKinnon broke Foster’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback, amassing 316 and coming within striking distance of Peterson’s single-game record total of 333.
Finishing the 2012 season ranked seventh nationally in rushing (129.8 yards per game) and 16th in scoring (8.71 points per game), McKinnon is closing in on the 3,000-yard rushing milestone, currently standing eighth among all Eagles with Georgia Southern great Tracy Ham in seventh. McKinnon is one of only a few Eagles to have thrown a touchdown pass, caught a touchdown pass and rushed for a touchdown, a group that includes Peterson and Foster.
The Marietta native adds the statistical distinction of also having two interceptions after moving to the other side of the ball for the end of the 2011 season. He tied a Georgia Southern single-game playoff record with two against Maine.
The Walter Payton Award was first given in 1987 to the best player in Division I-AA, but starting in 1995, it was designated for offensive players only after the launch of the Buck Buchanan Award. Payton was drafted by the Chicago Bears after an outstanding collegiate career at Jackson State and played 13 years in the NFL. A Super Bowl champion, two-time winner of the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award, and nine-time selection to the Pro Bowl, Payton held numerous season and career records in the league. He was inducted into both the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame and in 2010 was honored as an inaugural member of the Black College Football Hall of Fame.