First Payton winner Gamble was sure bet

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Networking is one of the unintended benefits of the Patriot League's 25th anniversary football team.

Former Bucknell football player A.J. Kizekai, one of the most recent players to earn his way onto the league's silver anniversary team this summer, turned to one of the original members, Kenny Gamble, to seek guidance on the direction of his post-college life.

Placing the call was anything but a Gamble for Kizekai. Gamble, the former Colgate running back, was more than happy to provide advice to him.

Kizekai clearly has his research skills down, having sought direction from the first player to win the Walter Payton Award. Gamble was named the outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) in 1987 after a senior season in which he rushed for 1,411 yards and 11 touchdowns, led the nation with 2,097 all-purpose yards and earned First-Team All-America honors for the second straight year.

Colgate RB Kenny Gamble, the first Walter Payton Award winner.
"It was extremely meaningful at the time and it kind of just spoke to my position during the time in the game. It was meaningful from that standpoint," Gamble says. "I think it gave me confidence as I was moving on to the next level to be selected as the top player in our division amongst a number of great players that were in the division at the time."

Gamble, who entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002, still feels humbled to be linked forever with the legendary Payton. Ironically, his final season at Colgate coincided with Payton's final season in the NFL with the Chicago Bears.

"He was the epitome of a great running back," Gamble, 46, says, "multi- purpose, could come out of the backfield and catch passes, ran with authority, had pretty good speed. I liked the type of training that he would put himself through during the offseason to get himself ready for the season. And just the way he carried himself, his professionalism."

During his Colgate career from 1984-87, the 5-foot-10, 197-pound Gamble rushed for 5,220 yards and 55 touchdowns, setting 29 school records. He played in the Blue-Gray Classic on his way to the NFL, where a series of injuries - broken foot, broken ankle, hyperextended knee - set him back during a three-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gamble, though, has never taken his eye off the end zone. A self-motivated businessman, he worked for two years (1996 and '97) as an assistant athletic director at Colgate. Today, the resident of Wilbraham, Mass., is vice president of marketing and product in the adidas sports licensing division.

"I don't want to lose at anything I do," he says with a laugh. "I think it's just my competitive nature, my competitive fire that a lot of athletes have - that fear of not wanting to be defeated and always wanting to win - that's motivated me and carried me to where I'm at today, and it will continue to carry me. I guess I kind of walk around with an athlete's mentality although I'm not participating in anything that's close to what I was doing 20 years ago. But you still have that."

A.J. Kizekai realized that. Gamble, after sizing up Kizekai's personality, advised him to pursue a career in college athletics.

Gamble will be a Walter Payton Award presenter at the 25th FCS Awards Presentation on Jan. 6, 2012, in Frisco, Texas - on the eve of the FCS national title game. The Sports Network presents and sponsors the national awards presentation.

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