Chattanooga, TN (Sports Network) -
Villanova running back Brian Westbrook was named the 15th winner of the Walter Payton Award tonight
at the FCS College Football Awards held in Chattanooga, TN on
the eve of the FCS national championship game.
The senior rushed for 1,603 yards, caught 59 passes for 658 yards, and
scored 29 touchdowns in leading 8-3 Villanova to an Colonial Athletic (formerly Atlantic 10) co-title.
Also a fixture in the punt and kickoff return games, Westbrook paced FCS during the 2001 season in all-purpose yards (256.64 per game) and scoring (16.7 points per game). Westbrook's 145.7 yards
per game were third-best in the division, and he was also seventh in FCS in points responsible for. The Fort Washington, MD native graduated as the NCAA's all-divisions all-purpose yardage leader, with 9,512 total yards to his credit during his four-year career.
Said Villanova coach Andy Talley: "Many people have asked me what player
Brian is most like, and Walter Payton comes to mind immediately. Brian
has that incredible versatility, the ability to run and catch, and make
would-be tacklers miss. His work ethic, drive and perseverance are
unmatched. He has made Villanovans everywhere proud. Having Brian
Finneran win the Payton in 1997 and now Westbrook in 2001 is beyond what
any football program could dream."
Westbrook, just two years removed from major knee surgery, began his
season bolting for 146 yards on just 13 carries, catching eight passes
for 75 yards, and mustering a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in
a 38-14 win over Colgate. On the night, Westbrook scored all five of the
team's TDs. After a 100-yard rushing day against Northeastern the
following week, Westbrook showed his versatility to the tune of a
effort in a 31-30 upset at Richmond. Against James Madison a week later,
Westbrook rushed for 228 yards in an overtime win. Two weeks later
versus Maine, it was 181 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Westbrook would finish his career by rushing for 100 yards or better in
his final five games, including a 287-yard effort against third-ranked
Hofstra and a 233-yard performance in the season finale versus William &
Westbrook is the eighth running back to win the Payton Award, and the
fourth consecutive. The senior became the second player from Villanova
to win the Payton, after current Atlanta Falcon Brian Finneran became
the first wide receiver to win the Award in 1997. Westbrook is the third
player from the Atlantic 10 Football Conference to claim the Payton,
after Finneran and New Hampshire running back Jerry Azumah (1998).
Westbrook received 31 first-place votes and 320 points from the panel of
103 FCS sports information directors and selected media. Following
Westbrook in the voting were Hofstra's Rocky Butler, who earned 22
first-place votes and 267 total points, and Georgia Southern's Adrian Peterson,
who finished in the top three of the voting for the fourth consecutive
year. Furman's Louis Ivory finished fifth in this year's voting.
The Walter Payton Award was established in 1987 by The Sports Network.