About the Award

Three standout student-athletes from each school are nominated for the Walter Payton Achievement Award Presented by The Undefeated each year. Only two will win.

Congratulations to our 2017 winners :  Victor Ishmael, Jr. from South Carolina State University and Danny Johnson from Southern University. Thank you to the over 16,000 fans who voted!

Learn more about the 2017 nominees via ESPN’s The Undefeated.


What is the Walter Payton Achievement Award Presented by The Undefeated? 

The Walter Payton Achievement Award was created in 2008 to honor one of football’s greatest players. The award is given to one player from each team participating in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney. Payton, who ended his career as the NFL’s leading rusher, starred at Jackson State, a SWAC school, from 1971-1974.

Who is eligible for the award?

Awardees are high achievers in the classroom and key contributors on the football field.

Who were the inaugural recipients?

Kevin Teel of Hampton University and Marcus Smith of Jackson State University were the 2008 winners.

How (and by whom) are awardees selected?

Finalists are selected by a committee consisting of academic advisers and coaches. Winners will be selected via online voting at www.meacswacchallenge.com. 2017 voting runs until August 24.

Is the Walter Payton Achievement Award affiliated with other awards bearing Payton’s name?

The Walter Payton Achievement Award isn’t the first to be named in Payton’s honor. The “Walter Payton Man of the Year Award” is given annually by the NFL, honoring a player’s volunteer and charity work as well as excellence on the field. The “Walter Payton Award” is awarded annually to the best offensive player in Division I FCS (formerly Division I-AA).

Is the Walter Payton Achievement Award endorsed by the Payton family?

Yes. Jarrett Payton, Walter Payton’s son, has represented the Payton family since the beginning, and presents the plaque to the winners each year.