Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke capped a record-breaking season in which he became the most prolific passer in the history of the Football Championship Subdivision by winning the Walter Payton Award Monday night.
Surrounded by family and friends from his hometown of Atlanta, and an entourage of ODU officials, Heinicke accepted the award at annual The Sports Network FCSbanquet.
As Heinicke strode to the podium at the Sheraton Society Hill, the theme from the movie “Rocky” blared through loudspeakers and several hundred spectators gave the quarterback a standing ovation.
Heinicke claimed 72 of 145 votes from sports information directors and journalists and 531 total points. Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet was a distant second with 13 first-place votes and 284 points. Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein was third with 197.
“Other than the national championship, there’s not a better award you could win,” Heinicke said. “It’s a huge honor and I’m very humbled.
“I’m speechless. I’m so happy right now. I’m so excited that it’s ridiculous. I can’t even put it into words what I’m feeling.”
ODU officials called the award a milestone for a program that has just been playing for only four seasons.
Named for the former Jackson State University and Chicago Bears star, the award is presented to the best player among the 121 FCS schools.
It is considered the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
This was ODU’s last season in FCS, as the Monarchs will move up to Conference USA and the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Maysonet rushed for a school record 1,964 yards and 23 touchdowns. Breitenstein surpassed his own school record by rushing for 2,035 yards and 29 touchdowns.
But the voters found Heinicke’s statistics more impressive.
The sophomore completed 398 of 579 passes for 5,076 yards and 44 touchdowns while leading ODU to an 11-2 record. He also ran for 470 yards and 11 touchdowns. Four times this season he rallied ODU from second-half deficits.
Heinicke set NCAA records for passing yards and completions in a season and led the nation in six offensive categories. He set a Division I record with 730 passing yards in one game, breaking the record set by Steve McNair at Alcorn State in 1994, when he led ODU to a 64-61 victory over New Hampshire. His 791 yards of total offense in that game set the record in all college divisions.
“We’ve got a great person, someone who’s a dean’s list student in engineering, and he’s the best football player in the country,” coach Bobby Wilder said. “I got to watch this young man break Steve McNair’s all-time passing record. I’ve been coaching for 26 years and I’ve never seen anything like the season he had.
“I can’t possibly understate what this means to our program and to Old Dominion.”
Many of those who played key roles in Heinicke’s life and football career traveled to Philadelphia. Heinicke’s mother, Diane Dodsworth; his stepfather, Mike Dodsworth; and Kevin Reach, his coach at Collins Hill High School in suburban Atlanta, flew to Philadelphia.
So did nearly two dozen ODU officials, including Wilder, athletic director Wood Selig, quarterbacks coach Ron Whitcomb, offensive coordinator Brian Scott, Mark Benson of the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation and more than a dozen athletic boosters.
“It was just a thrill to be here and to experience this with Taylor,” Diane Dodsworth said.
Yet the memory of someone who wasn’t there caused Heinicke to choke up as he acceped the award.
Brett Heinicke, Taylor’s father, died of a heart attack a year and two days ago. Heinicke had a memorial to his father tattooed to his left arm with an angel and a quote from the Bible. Every time he scored or threw for a touchdown this season, he pointed skyward.
“This whole season was dedicated to him,” Heinicke said.”From when it happened a year ago until now, every day has been living for him, trying to make him proud.
“I felt his presence this season. I felt him here tonight. I know he’s smiling down here now.”
Reach, Heinicke’s high school coach, was a close friend of Brett Heinicke.
“So much of the person Taylor is today came from Brett,” Reach said. “Brett wore his emotions on his sleeves. He would be crying if he was here tonight.
“I’m so proud of Taylor.”
Harry Minium, 757-446-2371, firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/@harry_miniumVP
By Harry Minium
© December 17, 2012
For original article, click here.
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