Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell capped an incredible two-year football career at Eastern Washington University by winning the Walter Payton Award on Friday.
The award, honoring the top player in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision, was presented in Frisco, Texas. The other two finalists were Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum and Indiana State running back Shakir Bell.
Mitchell, a Texas native, received 57 first-place votes and 453 points. Lum and Bell each finished with 219 votes, with Lum receiving 16 first-place votes and Bell 10.
“It’s an honor even to be mentioned in the final three, but to win the award is a huge accomplishment not only for me but for Eastern and our community,” said Mitchell in a media release.
He became the fourth Eastern player in the last seven seasons to win either the Payton Award or the Buck Buchanan Award (top defensive player in FCS).
Erik Meyer won the Payton Award in 2005, and Greg Peach (2008) and J.C. Sherritt (2010) won the Buchanan Award.
After playing two seasons at Southern Methodist University, Mitchell transferred to EWU in January 2010 and led the Eagles to the national championship in his first season.
In 2011, Mitchell led the FCS in four categories, including passing yards (a school-record 4,009) and touchdown passes (33).
“He really had an amazing career here,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “It’s a compliment to his work ethic and his ability to pick up a new system. He had the talent and basically just evolved within our system and kept getting better.
“Even though our record wasn’t what we wanted, he kept finding a way to improve and get better every week all the way until the end of the season. That says a lot about his mentality, his competitiveness and his overall drive.”
Baldwin said he fully expects the strong-armed Mitchell – nicknamed the “Gunslinger” – to have an opportunity to play professional football for a long time.
“I expect him to be in a camp somewhere,” Baldwin said. “In my opinion, he’s too good a football player and too good a quarterback to not have at least the opportunity to make a team and play football at the next level.”
Mitchell was named to seven All-America teams this past season, earning first-team honors on six of them.
“To win all the national honors and win a national championship has been amazing to me and is something I’ll remember all my life,” Mitchell said. “I’ve created relationships with players and coaches on this team that will last a lifetime.”
Long wait for Bison
Championship games were once routine at North Dakota State. The Bison are in a higher division now, but figure it’s about time for another decade of dominance.
First things first: North Dakota State’s debut in the Football Championship Subdivision title game today is against Sam Houston State, also a first-time finalist but lacking a trophy case like the Bison filled in the 1980s with Division II championship hardware.
Win before an expected sellout crowd of 20,000-plus at FC Dallas Stadium, and NDSU (13-1) will have its first title since 1990 and perhaps a few reminders about those Division II championship days.
Sam Houston (14-0) is led by running backs Tim Flanders, a Kansas State transfer, and Richard Sincere, who needs 35 yards to become the team’s second 1,000-yard rusher, and quarterback Brian Bell, all sophomores.