Nominees Announced, Voting Open for 2017 Walter Payton Achievement Award

The six nominees for the ninth annual Walter Payton Achievement Award, which is given to one player from each team participating in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, have been announced. The 13th annual game, which showcases and celebrates teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, will feature the South Carolina State Bulldogs of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southern Jaguars of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, Sept. 3, at Ace W. Mumford Stadium, and the game will be televised live on ESPN2.

The nominees include South Carolina State senior center Victor Ismael, Jr., redshirt senior linebacker Darius Leonard and redshirt senior linebacker Dayshawn Taylor, and Southern senior defensive back Danny Johnson, senior defensive lineman Aaron Tiller and senior linebacker Kentavious Preston. Finalists are selected by coaches and administrators from each participating school.

First presented in 2008, the Walter Payton Achievement Award is named in honor of the late Walter Payton, a former All-American at Jackson State University (1971 to 1974) and Professional Football Hall of Fame running back who spent his entire NFL career (1975 to 1987) with the Chicago Bears. The award recognizes exemplary student-athletes, shining a light on character and embodiment of team spirit.

Voting for the 2017 Walter Payton Achievement Award opened Thursday, August 17, and will close Thursday, August 24. Fans can read more about the nominees on The Undefeated and vote on Award winners will be announced at the MEAC/SWAC Challenge welcome banquet at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center on Saturday, Sept. 2. The award will be presented once again by Walter Payton’s son, Jarrett Payton.

Past winners of the Walter Payton Achievement Award include, Ja-Quan Lumas, Bethune-Cookman and Charles Hughes, Alcorn State (2016); Temarrick Hemingway, South Carolina State, and Kevin Rucker Jr., Arkansas – Pine Bluff (2015); Alan Cruz, Alabama A&M, and Quentin Todd, North Carolina A&T State University (2014); Jonathan Pillow, Florida A&M University, and Kevin Eugene, Mississippi Valley State University (2013); Bobby Wenzig, Alabama State University, and Arlen McCray-Nibbs, Bethune-Cookman University (2012); Nesly Marcellon, Bethune-Cookman University, and Raheem Cardwell, Prairie View A&M University (2011); Kevin Green, Delaware State University, and Gary Hollimon, Southern University (2010); Van Phillips, Grambling State University, and Zachary Middleton, South Carolina State University (2009); Kevin Teel, Hampton University, and Marcus Smith, Jackson State University (2008).

Tickets to the MEAC/SWAC Challenge can be purchased through Ticketmaster online, by calling 1-800-745-3000, or by visiting

The MEAC/SWAC Challenge is owned and operated by ESPN Events, a divison of ESPN.

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