Walter Payton Award

College football award for most outstanding offensive player
Walter Payton Award
Walter Payton Award
Awarded for"Most outstanding offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision"
CountryUnited States
Presented byStats Perform
First award1987, 37 years ago
Most recentMark Gronowski, QB
South Dakota State

The Walter Payton Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding offensive player in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) of college football as chosen by a nationwide panel of media and college sports information directors.[1] The honor was first given 37 years ago in 1987 to the outstanding player in the division, but in 1995, eligibility was restricted to offensive players, as the Buck Buchanan Award for defensive players was inaugurated.

The award was named in honor of the late National Football League (NFL) legend Walter Payton, who starred at Jackson State University in the early 1970s.[2]

The most recent winner of the award is Mark Gronowski, a quarterback from South Dakota State who earned the honor during the 2023 season.

The award was named to honor the late Walter Payton
Armanti Edwards was the first player to win the award more than once.


Year Player School Position
1987 Kenny Gamble Colgate RB
1988 Dave Meggett Towson State RB
1989 John Friesz Idaho QB
1990 Walter Dean Grambling RB
1991 Jamie Martin Weber State QB
1992 Michael Payton Marshall QB
1993 Doug Nussmeier Idaho QB
1994 Steve McNair Alcorn State QB
1995 Dave Dickenson Montana QB
1996 Archie Amerson Northern Arizona RB
1997 Brian Finneran Villanova WR
1998 Jerry Azumah New Hampshire RB
1999 Adrian Peterson Georgia Southern RB
2000 Louis Ivory Furman RB
2001 Brian Westbrook Villanova RB
2002 Tony Romo Eastern Illinois QB
2003 Jamaal Branch Colgate RB
2004 Lang Campbell William & Mary QB
2005 Erik Meyer Eastern Washington QB
2006 Ricky Santos New Hampshire QB
2007 Jayson Foster Georgia Southern QB
2008 Armanti Edwards Appalachian State QB
2010 Jeremy Moses Stephen F. Austin QB
2011 Bo Levi Mitchell Eastern Washington QB
2012 Taylor Heinicke Old Dominion QB
2013 Jimmy Garoppolo Eastern Illinois QB
2014 John Robertson Villanova QB
2015 Cooper Kupp Eastern Washington WR
2016 Jeremiah Briscoe Sam Houston State QB
2018 Devlin Hodges Samford QB
2019 Trey Lance North Dakota State QB
2020 Cole Kelley Southeastern Louisiana QB
2021 Eric Barriere Eastern Washington QB
2022 Lindsey Scott Jr. Incarnate Word QB
2023 Mark Gronowski South Dakota State QB

Awards won by school

This is a list of the colleges and universities who have had a player win a Walter Payton Award. Among the many schools in the division, only nine have claimed more than one award, and only seven have had more than one player win the award. Eastern Washington has had four players win the award, Villanova has had three players win the award, and five have had two players win: Colgate, Georgia Southern, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Eastern Illinois. Two players have won the award twice, with both being the only players from their institutions to win. In 2009, Armanti Edwards from Appalachian State became the first to receive the award twice,[3] followed in 2017 by Jeremiah Briscoe from Sam Houston State.[4][a] In 2019, Trey Lance of North Dakota State was the first freshman to receive the award.[5]

School Awards
Eastern Washington 4
Villanova 3
Appalachian State^ 2
Eastern Illinois
Georgia Southern^
New Hampshire
Sam Houston^
Alcorn State 1
Incarnate Word
North Dakota State
Northern Arizona
North Dakota State
Old Dominion^
South Dakota State
Southeastern Louisiana
Stephen F. Austin
Weber State
William & Mary
^ Team is now a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).


  1. ^ Sam Houston dropped the word "State" from its athletic branding in 2020.


  1. ^ "Walter Payton Award". The Sports Network. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
  2. ^ Roy Taylor (2002). "Walter Payton Biography". Bears History. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
  3. ^ "Armanti Edwards wins 2009 Walter Payton Award". The Sports Network. Archived from the original on 2011-04-04. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
  4. ^ Chiusano, Anthony (January 5, 2018). "Sam Houston State QB Jeremiah Briscoe wins FCS Walter Payton Award for second straight year". Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  5. ^ Chiusano, Anthony (January 10, 2020). "North Dakota State QB Trey Lance wins 2019 FCS Walter Payton Award". Retrieved January 11, 2020.
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