Walter Payton Achievement Award nominees named
Voting now open and winners to be announced Sept. 3
Six student-athletes are nominated, but only two will take home the coveted Walter Payton Achievement Award — named in honor of Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, an All-American who starred at Jackson State University from 1971-1974. Launched in 2008 — and presented for the first time in partnership with The Undefeated — the award is presented to one player from each school participating in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)/Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Challenge, who are high achievers in the classroom and key contributors on the field.
The 12th annual game, which showcases and celebrates teams from historically black colleges and universities, will feature Bethune-Cookman University (from the MEAC) vs. Alcorn State University (SWAC). The game will be played on Sept. 4 at 1 p.m. EST at Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium and be televised on ESPN. Voting for the 2016 Walter Payton Achievement Award began July 19 and closes Aug. 19. The final two winners will be announced at the welcome banquet on Sept. 3 at the Daytona International Speedway. Previous winners were presented the award by Jarrett Payton, son of the Hall of Famer.
A member of the College and Pro Football halls of fame, the elder Payton played his entire NFL career with the Chicago Bears (1975-87). Payton died in 1999 at the age of 45 after struggling with a rare liver disease. Payton’s legacy also includes college football’s Walter Payton Award and the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
Alcorn State University nominees
Lenorris Footman, Quarterback
Hometown: Monticello, Florida
Major: Criminal Justice
Footman rushed for 1,142 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in 11 games last season. The criminal justice major also threw for 1,106 yards and 14 touchdown passes while leading Alcorn State to the inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. “He is the leader of this team and an awesome football player,” said Alcorn State coach Fred McNair. “He is a hard worker and takes pride in carrying this team on his back.”
Michael Hurns, Linebacker
Hometown: Cleveland, Mississippi
Hurns is coming off an impressive 2015 campaign, notching 27 solo tackles, 18 assisted, 6.0 tackles for losses, three sacks and one quarterback hurry. “He displays great character and leadership on and off the field,” said McNair of Hurns, a three-year starter who was voted senior class president.
Charles Hughes, Wide Receiver
Hometown: Macon, Mississippi
Hughes played in all 11 games as the Braves sure-handed wide receiver last season. The versatile wideout and return man — the third person in his family to wear the No. 5 — also runs track. “He is the true definition of a hard worker both on and off the field,” McNair said.
Ja-Quan Lumas, Tight End
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Class: Redshirt junior
Lumas showed promise playing in all 11 games, including three starts, last season. A history major, Lumas had nine catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns. “Ja-Quan encompasses everything that a student-athlete should be in college,” said Bethune-Cookman coach Terry Sims. “He serves in his community by giving back in Orlando, as well as in the Daytona Beach area. He is also a true student in and out of the classroom.”
Michael Jones, Running Back
Hometown: Sarasota, Florida
Major: Physical Education/Recreation
Jones was the Wildcats’ second-leading rusher with 562 yards last season, averaging 5.1 yards per carry over 11 games. “Mike Jones is a young man that started as a walk-on, only to work his way to being a scholarship student-athlete,” Sims said. “He was always told he was not fast enough, was too small and not good enough. But he has proved everyone wrong, and is playing collegiate football at a Division I institution.”
Jawill Davis, Wide Receiver
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Major: Liberal studies
Class: Redshirt junior
An All-MEAC selection, Davis was the team’s leading receiver last season (39 receptions for 788 yards and six touchdowns). “Jawill was a young man that we knew would have a breakout season in 2015,” said Sims of Davis, who was used sparingly as a freshman. “He used his redshirt sophomore season to make a name for himself in the league. He not only has a bright future in college, but a young man that can be a great football professional football player, or a great professional in the work world when he graduates.”