SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly senior slotback Deonte Williams is among three players from NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision schools added to the 2012 Walter Payton Award watch list by The Sports Network on Tuesday.
Williams, the first Mustang on the Walter Payton Award watch list since wide receiver Ramses Barden in 2008, has rushed for 926 yards in seven games and has surpassed the 100-yard mark in a game six times this season.
The Pleasant Grove High School (Elk Grove, Calif.) graduate who played as a freshman at Northern Arizona and as a sophomore at Sierra College before coming to Cal Poly a year ago, needs 74 yards to become the 15th Mustang to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and two more 100-yard games to tie James Noble for most 100-yard games in a season.
The other two newcomers to the watch list are wide receivers Erik Lora of Eastern Illinois and Cordell Roberson of Stephen F. Austin.
The list of original nominees on the Watch List consists of quarterbacks Casey Brockman of Murray State, Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State, Wynrick Smothers of Central Arkansas and Brad Sorensen of Southern Utah; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Jamaine Cook of Youngstown State, Matt Denham of Eastern Kentucky, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, Miguel Maysonet of Stony Brook, Andrew Pierce of Delaware, Terrance West of Towson and Zack Zenner of South Dakota State; fullback Eric Breitenstein of Wofford; and wide receiver Aaron Mellette of Elon.
Williams is the top rusher in the Big Sky and No. 7 in the FCS in rushing, averaging 132.3 yards per game. Williams has seven 100-yard games as a Mustang, including a 100-yard performance against UC Davis a year ago, and produced four 100-yard games as a freshman at Northern Arizona in 2008.
Last Saturday, Williams carried the ball a career-high 27 times, gaining 169 yards in a 37-25 victory over Portland State and keeping Cal Poly's record perfect at 7-0. The Mustangs are tied for first place with Eastern Washington in the Big Sky Conference standings, both 5-0 and a half-game ahead of Northern Arizona (4-0).
Williams' Mustang career high for yards in a game is 188 against UC Davis last month. At Northern Arizona, he rushed for 950 yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games with season highs of 22 carries and 194 yards and three scores, all in the Idaho game.
Williams opened the 2012 season with four consecutive 100-yard games, but the streak ended with 31 yards on six carries at Weber State as he suffered an ankle injury during the game. He surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in career rushing as a Mustang three weeks ago and now has 1,311 yards in two years at Cal Poly.
Including his 2008 freshman season at Northern Arizona, where he was named Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year, Williams now has 2,261 yards in three collegiate campaigns.
Williams is averaging 6.9 yards per carry this season and has caught seven passes for 47 yards and a score. Last fall, Williams rushed for 385 yards and five touchdowns in his first season at Cal Poly, averaging 4.7 yards on 82 carries and scoring five touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 28 yards.
Williams rushed for 2,447 yards and 27 touchdowns in his senior season at Pleasant Grove High School.
Ballots for the Payton award will be sent out to a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19. The Sports Network awards banquet will be held Dec. 17 in Philadelphia.
The Payton Award goes to the FCS national player of the year, with the Buck Buchanan Award honoring the FCS national defensive player of the year. The Sports Network also presents the Jerry Rice Award to the freshman of the year and the Eddie Robinson Award, which goes to the FCS national coach of the year.
The Sports Network established the Payton and Robinson awards in 1987, and began sponsoring the Buchanan Award in 1995 and the Jerry Rice Award in 2011.
Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was the 2011 Payton Award winner, while New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans took home the Buchanan Award. Rob Ambrose of Towson was the Eddie Robinson Award winner while Towson running back Terrance West was presented the inaugural Jerry Rice Award.
Three Cal Poly defensive players have earned the Buchanan Award -- linebacker Jordan Beck in 2004, defensive end Chris Gocong in 2005 and linebacker Kyle Shotwell in 2006.