FRISCO, Texas – One of the finest single seasons in Lehigh and Patriot League history was enough to earn Mountain Hawks senior quarterback Chris Lum a trip to Texas as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Despite being the only one of the three finalists to lead his team to the postseason, Lum tied for second in the voting as Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell won the award, handed out Friday night at the FCS Awards Banquet.
Mitchell, who quarterbacked Eastern Washington to the 2010 National Championship, earned 57 first place votes and 453 total points to win the 25th edition of the Walter Payton Award, which is presented by the Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com. Lum and Indiana State running back Shakir Bell tied for second in the voting with 219 points apiece, with Lum garnering 16 first place votes and Bell earning ten.
The Walter Payton Award is based entirely on regular season performance and was voted on by a panel of media members and sports information directors at the conclusion of the regular season. The award was presented at the FCS Awards Banquet Friday night along with the Buck Buchanan Award (top defensive player), the Eddie Robinson Award (top coach) and the Jerry Rice Award (top freshman).
The driving force behind Lehigh’s 11-2 season that featured a second-straight undefeated Patriot League season, the program’s league-best tenth championship and Lehigh’s first appearance in the FCS quarterfinals since 2001, Lum operated one of the nation’s top offenses. The Patriot League’s Offensive Player of the Year and a first team All-League selection, Lum completed 358 of 543 passes (66 percent) for 4,378 yards and 32 touchdowns. He established Lehigh and Patriot League single-season records for completions and passing yards and set the school single-season touchdown pass record as well.
The Lake Orion, Mich. native eclipsed the 300 yard passing mark nine times in his senior season, including the first seven games of the Mountain Hawks’ season. Lum eclipsed the 400 yard passing mark twice this season, including a career-high 413 in Lehigh’s win at Fordham in October. He also threw for 401 yards and tied a school record with six touchdown passes in a losing effort against New Hampshire on September 10.
“Chris Lum's performance this fall was nothing short of spectacular,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “He had the best single season of any quarterback that ever played football at Lehigh University. We have a very rich tradition of great quarterbacks at Lehigh and Chris Lum is now part of that tradition.
Coen continued, “Chris was the catalyst behind our offense all season long. He not only executed and performed at a high level each week, but he provided tremendous leadership every time he stepped on the field. I have been around many great quarterbacks and this year Chris' play was as good as any I have had the pleasure to coach.”
Last month Lum earned second team All-America honors from the Associated Press and first team honors from Phil Steele. Lum was also recognized with by the Sports Network. Mitchell’s Walter Payton Award win earns him a spot on the Sports Network All-America first team, while Lum earns a spot on the second team.
The Sports Network announced its three other major award winners on Thursday with the recipients honored at Friday night’s banquet. New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans earned the Buck Buchanan award, while Towson running back Terrance West won the inaugural Jerry Rice Award. Towson’s Rob Ambrose captured the Eddie Robinson Award, while Coen finished sixth in the balloting. Coen garnered 96 points including three first place votes. He finished seventh in last year’s voting and was the only coach in the FCS to be named a finalist in each of the last two seasons.