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Fullback Joe Protheroe Added to Walter Payton Award Watch List

Fullback Joe Protheroe Added to Walter Payton Award Watch List
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — For the second straight year, Cal Poly fullback Joe Protheroe has landed on the Walter Payton Award watch list.
Presented by STATS, the annual award honors the offensive player of the year in the Football Championship Subdivision. Protheroe is one of eight players added to the watch list Wednesday.
Protheroe made the preseason watch list in 2017, but was injured in the second game at San Jose State and did not return that season.
The senior from Clayton Valley Charter in Concord is making a much stronger run to the award this time around.
"Joe is definitely deserving of the honor in a lot of ways," Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said a year ago, "his commitment to football, the physical punishment he takes at the fullback position with his blocking and running, his work ethic.
"He loves the contact part of the sport and he loves all aspects of the game," Walsh added. "There isn't a more deserving player on that list."
The same can be said today as Protheroe prepares for his final two games as a Mustang, approaching two significant milestones in the Cal Poly record book.
With his fourth career 200-yard game Saturday at Montana State — 215 yards on 36 carries and two touchdowns — Protheroe moved past James Noble into third place on Cal Poly's all-time career rushing chart. With two games remaining for the senior fullback, Protheroe has accumulated 1,367 yards this season and 3,828 for his Mustang career.
He needs six yards to catch No. 2 Antonio Warren and 378 yards to surpass the school career rushing record of 4,205 yards held by Craig Young (1996-99). Protheroe also is within reach of the single-season rushing mark of 1,578 yards set by Noble in 2005, needing 210 yards.
Protheroe has produced seven consecutive 100-yard games rushing and 21 for his Mustang career. both school records. He is first in the nation and Big Sky with his 1,367 yards this season and second in the country and best in the Big Sky averaging 151.9 yards per game.
Protheroe's 12 rushing touchdowns this fall are No. 2 in the Big Sky and No. 6 in the FCS. His 34 career touchdowns on the ground are four shy of the school mark set by quarterback Chris Brown from 2012-15.
Protheroe, who rushed for 1,334 yards and 13 scores in 2016, tops in the Big Sky, is the sixth Mustang to surpass the 1,000-yard mark twice. The others are Young, Noble, Brown, Louis Jackson and Antonio Warren. He scooted past the 100-yard mark eight times in 2016, two shy of the mark set by slot back Deonte Williams in 2012.
Among active players this season, Protheroe is No. 2 in the FCS in career rushing yards, behind No. 1 Dominick Bragalone of Lehigh (4,227 yards). He passed former No. 2 John Santiago of North Dakota (3,643) last week.
During his stretch of seven straight 100-yard games, Protheroe has amassed 1,250 yards on 252 carries, averaging 4.96 yards per trip and 178.6 yards and 36 trips a contest. Those totals include career highs of 43 carries and 228 yards against Brown on Sept. 14, the first game of the streak.
Tossing out his freshman season in which he was used sparingly, playing behind Brandon Howe at fullback, Protheroe is averaging 117.5 yards per game over his last 31 contests for Cal Poly and he will move into the top 10 on the Big Sky's all-time career rushing list with 188 yards in the final two games of his career year.
Only one other Mustang has landed on the Walter Payton Award watch list. That was Williams in 2012.
Several Mustangs have been associated with the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive player in the FCS. Cal Poly's Jordan Beck claimed the award in 2004, Chris Gocong in 2005 and Kyle Shotwell in 2006.
A two-time first-team All-Big Sky Conference honoree so far, Protheroe has been named to the All-Big Sky Conference Preseason Football Team three times. He was a Big Sky All-Academic Team member in 2014.
Protheroe earned first-team All-America honors from STATS and Hero Sports in 2016 and was a third-team All-American by STATS as a sophomore in 2015 after rushing for 779 yards and six touchdowns. He played in all 12 games as a true freshman and rushed for 184 yards on 29 carries and two scores.
Protheroe and the seven others raise the total number of players nominated for the Payton award to 39 candidates.
The Payton Award, first handed out in 1987, has been won by such players as Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, John Friesz, Brian Finneran, Jimmy Garoppolo and Cooper Kupp move on to the NFL.
A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote for the finalists following the end of the regular season. The award will be presented the night prior to the NCAA Division I FCS title game during the first weekend of January in Frisco, Texas.
Also included on the watch list are Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud for the third straight year, two-time nominee Keelan Doss, a wide receiver from UC Davis, and first-timer Jake Maier, UC Davis quarterback. Idaho State senior quarterback Tanner Gueller was among the eight added to the list Wednesday.
Other players from Cal Poly opponents the past three years on the current watch list are North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick and running back Bruce Anderson, San Diego signal caller Anthony Lawrence, Colgate running back James Holland Jr. and quarterbacks Taryn Christion of South Dakota State and Case Cookus of Northern Arizona,
The Big Sky Conference has the most nominees with six, followed by the Missouri Valley Football Conference with five.
The breakdown of the watch list by position: 17 quarterbacks, 11 wide receivers, 11 running backs and one tight end. 
A year ago, Sam Houston State quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe became the second-ever repeat winner of the Walter Payton Award, joining Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards in 2008 and 2009.
In addition to the Payton and Buchanan awards, STATS will present the Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year.