2012 Payton Award Nominees
Jarrett Payton, unavailable to hand-deliver the Payton Award this year, congratulates this year’s winners.
First presented in 2008, the Walter Payton Achievement Award is an honor given annually to a player from each school participating in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney. The award is named in honor of the late Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton, who attended Jackson State University, a SWAC school, in the 1970s before his legendary Hall of Fame career with the Bears.
|The Walter Payton Achievement Award is an honor given annually to a player from each school participating in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. Voting is open until on Aug. 24. The winners are announced on Aug. 31. VOTE|
Three nominees from each school—the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s Bethune-Cookman (Daytona Beach, Fla.) and Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Alabama State University (Montgomery, Ala.)—were selected by a committee consisting of academic advisers and coaches.
Winners—one player from each school—will be determined via online fan voting before the Sept. 2 game. Voting is open until Aug. 24, with the winners announced on Friday, Aug. 31.
Here are the three nominees from each school:
Nesly Marcellon, LB
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Major: Business Administration
Marcellon is looking to have a breakout year in 2012, after only playing in 10 games last season in a reserve role after a 2010 knee surgery sidelined him the previous year. The second-time Walter Payton Achievement Award nominee notched 13 tackles (six solo) last season, and maintained a 3.57 GPA, tops on the team. “Nesly is a kid who is very sharp in our program,” says Wildcats coach Brian Jenkins. “Anything we ask him to do, he does, and does it at a high level. Having a chance to be nominated for the second time for this award speaks volumes about the commitment this young man has made to our program as a student-athlete.”
Arlen McCray-Nibbs, LB
Major: Speech Communications
Arlen McCray-Nibbs epitomizes this award in more ways than one. He started his career on the defensive line, playing two games with three tackles in 2010. He trimmed down and shifted to the offensive side of the ball to play running back, but with the strong stable of backs last season, McCray-Nibbs didn’t get the opportunity to showcase his skills. So he transitioned again to a new position: middle linebacker. With his nose for the ball and tireless work ethic, it was the perfect role for the speech communications major who has the second-highest GPA on the team (with a 3.54), earning him a spot on the 2011-12 MEAC Commissioner’s All-Academic Team. “This is a young guy who has come in with a great focus on achieving the goals of being on top, both athletically and academically,” says Jenkins. “His work ethic is a testament to his being nominated for this award.”
Jhomo Gordon, WR
Hometown: Palm Bay, Fla.
Major: Computer Engineering
It’s not easy to come into a team, as a freshman or even a sophomore, and immediately make an impression that lasts. That’s what Gordon has done. The computer engineering major got his feet wet in 2011, as a true freshman, playing limited snaps at receiver (catching 3 balls for 28 yards). In the classroom, he proved right away that he is up to the challenge, with the third-highest GPA on the team, at 3.52. “He is an up-and-coming player who has followed the examples set by other young men in our program as far as being a high academic guy,” says coach Jenkins. “In addition to being a high-performing athlete on the field, he’s a solid young man who leads by example.”
Alabama State University nominees
Saeed Lee, CB
Major: Recreational Therapy
Last year was one for the books for Lee; in 2011 he started every game for the first time in his career, and ranked second on the team in INTs and tied for ninth in the FCS (with five). He led the SWAC (and tied for sixth in the FCS) in passes defended, with 16, and made 45 tackles (27 solo) with one sack and two fumble recoveries. In the classroom, he maintained a 3.4 GPA. “Saeed came here as a walk-on after playing linebacker in high school and was kind of overlooked coming out,” recalls coach Reggie Barlow. “But he was a perfect fit; in addition to all of his athletic ability, his character stands out even more. He’s offered books he paid for as a walk-on to other players who may have needed them. He has great character, and he really gets it, in terms of what we want from him on and off the field.”
Winton Steward, LB
Hometown: Lilburn, Ga.
Major: Criminal Justice
Steward saw action in eight games last season, starting two, in his first year as a Hornet. He compiled some respectable numbers, with 22 tackles (11 solo), two INTs and one forced fumble. His breakout game came again Grambling State last September, when he made a season-high seven tackles (three solo) with one INT. “He’s the team politician,” said Barlow of Steward who had a 3.34 GPA. “He ran for student senator during the spring semester—and won. He’s one of the voices of the students. Whenever you can win the student body over and get people to trust you and speak on your behalf, that’s a positive thing. Despite fighting some injuries, he’s back healthy, and we’re looking forward to a great year from him.”
Bobby Wenzig, K/P
Hometown: San Diego
Kicker is the most underappreciated position in football—and Wenzig plays the position with a cool his coaches admire. The San Diego native handled all kicking duties for the Hornets, leading the team in scoring with 76 points, converting 31-35 PATs and 15-25 field goals. “He’s a very intelligent young man with a lot of ability on the field,” says Barlow of the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Second-team All-SWAC punter. “Whenever you can find a guy who can do all three [punt, kickoff, field goals], that’s a special thing. With his 3.65 GPA, you know he’s a smart guy; he has dreams and aspirations of working in business in stocks. He’s a joy to coach—a very talented young man.”