Final in a three-part series profiling the top vote-getters for the 2011 Walter Payton Award.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It might sound cliche, but oh is that right arm of Bo Levi Mitchell unique.
He's a quarterback from the Lone Star State who thrives off throwing pass after pass.
You might call him the prototypical Texas gunslinger?
Bo Levi Mitchell led the nation in passing yards (4,009) and touchdown passes (33) during the regular season.
Well, that's what's written across his right bicep.
To honor a late uncle who used to call Mitchell "Gunslinger," the Eastern Washington University senior with the colorful style has a tatoo of an old six-shooter with smoke coming out of it, and the word "Gunslinger" in the smoke.
Mitchell's teammates use the nickname for him, which isn't surprising considering his two-year run at EWU that has ended with him being a finalist for the 2011 Walter Payton Award, which honors the outstanding player in the FCS, is presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com.
A year after leading the Eagles to their first FCS national title, the 6- foot-2, 210-pound transfer from SMU led the nation in passing yards (4,009) and touchdown passes (33) during the regular season. The Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year kept the Eagles competitive amid a myriad of injuries, completing 318-of-503 attempts (63.2 percent), with 13 interceptions. His 364.5 passing yards per game ranks ninth in FCS history.
"I'm blessed with more receivers around me that are so good," Mitchell deflected the credit.
"Bo had an amazing career here for what he was able to accomplish statistically and from a win-loss standpoint," EWU head coach Beau Baldwin said. "And throughout it all, he's been a great leader and helped lead our program to a national championship. To have him even mentioned in the same breath as some of the great Eastern quarterbacks we've had here, including (2005) Payton Award winner Erik Meyer, would have been an incredible accomplishment in itself. In terms of winning the national title and leading us to 19 victories in two seasons, we've never had a quarterback more successful than Bo."
The Eagles (6-5) nearly overcame an 0-4 start to make the FCS playoffs, and Mitchell led the charge. He threw 26 touchdowns over their final seven games, helping trusted receivers Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd to both post 1,000- yard seasons.
The Walter Payton and Eddie Robinson awards are marking their silver anniversaries this year. The Payton honors the FCS' outstanding player and the Robinson celebrates the national coach of the year. In addition to those two awards, the Buck Buchanan (FCS outstanding defensive player) and the Jerry Rice (FCS freshman of the year) awards will be announced at the FCS Awards Presentation on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas. All four awards are presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com.
"I was definitely cutting down the what-are-you-doing plays, if that makes sense," Mitchell said. "I think there were times, things that stand from my freshman and sophomore years (at SMU), when things broke down and things became erratic, so did I. I would try to find something deep instead of looking short. This year, all throughout spring ball, I just worked on my footwork in the pocket that just allowed me to escape when things broke down, to escape, run across field and throw on the run better and really be able to find and make plays."
Mitchell called the 2010 FCS national title in Frisco, Texas - about 275 miles from his native town of Katy - "one of the fulfilling experiences that you kind of look for in life."
In two weeks, he will be back in Frisco with the hope of having another such experience: adding the top individual hardware in the FCS - the Walter Payton Award - to last year's national title.
Samuel G. Freedman's "Breaking The Line" vividly recreates the world of black college football in the civil rights era with a gripping chronicle of the 1967 season for coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State and Alonzo S. "Jake" Gaither at Florida A&M.