BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lehigh All-America wide receiver Ryan Spadola is one of 20 players named to the initial watch list for the Walter Payton Award, the Sports Network announced Thursday. Spadola is the second Mountain Hawk in as many years to be named to the watch list for the award, which is given to the outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Last year, quarterback Chris Lum was added to the watch list in October, and went on to finish second in the voting.
Spadola was named a first-team Preseason All-American by the Sports Network on Monday. He is coming off a record-setting junior season where he caught a school record 96 passes for a Lehigh and Patriot League record 1,614 yards. Spadola added 11 touchdown receptions and was named a first team All-Patriot League selection for the second straight year, while also garnering first team All-America honors from the AFCA, Associated Press and the Sports Network among others.
Last season, the Howell, N.J. native eclipsed the 100 yard receiving mark in 11 of the 12 games he played in. Spadola caught nine passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns in an early season win at Princeton and later established a new career high with 216 receiving yards on 13 catches in a mid-October win at Fordham. He also came up big in Lehigh’s second round FCS playoff win at Towson on December 3. His 1,614 receiving yards were the seventh-highest single-season total in FCS history, just 98 yards shy of the subdivision record.
Spadola caught just one pass for 16 yards as a freshman, but following a breakout sophomore campaign and an outstanding junior season now has 175 career catches for 2,760 yards and 20 touchdowns. He averaged nearly 17 yards per reception and 134.5 yards per game last year, as he has helped lead the Mountain Hawks to back-to-back Patriot League titles.
Prior to Spadola and Lum, the last Lehigh football player named to the Walter Payton Award watch list was quarterback Mark Borda in November 2004.
The 26th Walter Payton Award is voted on by a panel of media members and sports information directors at the conclusion of the regular season. The award will be presented along with the Buck Buchanan Award (top defensive player), the Eddie Robinson Award (top coach) and the Jerry Rice Award (top freshman) at the FCS national awards banquet.
The Mountain Hawks will open the 2012 season at Goodman Stadium against Monmouth September 1 at 12:30 p.m. To purchase tickets call 610-7LU-GAME or click on the link above.