EIU's Jimmy Garoppolo Wins Walter Payton Award

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Published on December 17 2013 2:14 pm
Last Updated on December 17 2013 2:14 pm
Written by Millie Lange

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Heads up, Tony Romo, there is another Eastern Illinois quarterback coming to the NFL.

And Jimmy Garoppolo is bringing his Walter Payton Award with him.

Monday night, Garoppolo became the second Payton Award winner from the Ohio Valley Conference school, following in Romo's footsteps, by outdistancing Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams and Towson running back Terrance West in the voting for FCS outstanding player honors.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound senior, perhaps the leading offensive candidate from the FCS for the 2014 NFL Draft, gained just over half of the first-place votes - 74 of 147 - and 576 points from a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. Adams was second with 446 points and West third with 370.

Garoppolo was spectacular during the regular season when Eastern Illinois went 11-1, won a second straight outright OVC championship and was ranked No. 2 in the nation, losing only to FBS member Northern Illinois by four points.

He ranked first in the FCS in passing yards (4,489), passing yards per game (374.1) and touchdown passes (48), second in total offense (377.9 yards per game) and points responsible for (25.8 per game), third in passing efficiency (170.6), and fourth in completions per game (26.7).

An easy choice for OVC offensive player of the year, Garoppolo threw for seven touchdowns against Illinois State and six against both Northern Illinois and UT Martin. He even caught a touchdown against Jacksonville State

The native of Arlington Heights, Ill. continued to build on his many Eastern Illinois and OVC records throughout the FCS playoffs this month. He finished the Panthers' 12-2 season completing 375-of-568 pass attempts (66 percent) for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.

"Jimmy has had the best season from a college quarterback that I have ever seen, with the exception of maybe Robert Griffin when he won the Heisman at Baylor," said EIU coach Dino Babers, in his second season since arriving from Baylor. "He is the engine that makes us go.

"I'm happy for Jimmy, his family and his teammates for all the success he has had on the field this season and these types of awards are rightly deserved."

Romo, the Dallas Cowboys' star signal caller, won the Payton Award in 2002.