Few would have faulted Towson's Terrance West for being angry after the junior running back finished third in the voting for the Walter Payton Award on Monday night, despite leading the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in rushing and touchdowns.
But with the No. 7 seed Tigers (12-2) still alive and preparing for Saturday's NCAA Division I Football Championship semifinal at No. 3 seed Eastern Washington (12-2), West was more than happy to miss out on the FCS' top individual honor if it meant winning a greater prize.
"I would have been upset if we weren't in this situation," West (Northwestern) said. "If we had been home last week [because] we had lost [in the playoffs], I'd be upset. But right now, the main goal coming into the season was winning a national championship, and we're two games away from doing that. So I can't get distracted because I didn't win the Payton Award. It's about winning the national championship, because I've got a whole team in [the locker room] that couldn't get the Payton Award, but we can get a national championship."
West finished with 370 points in the voting, behind winning Eastern Illinois senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (576) and Eastern Washington sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams (446).
On Tuesday, West was named the winner of the first Running Back of the Year award from the Football Championship Subdivision Athletics Directors Association.
West finished the regular season with a nation's-best 1,865 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns. And in Saturday's 49-39 upset of the No. 2 seed and Garoppolo-led Panthers, West set a FCS single-game playoff record with 354 rushing yards. He also had five touchdowns.
But a panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters and writers based its voting on the regular season, and ballots were submitted before that performance.
Despite his public lobbying for West during a conference call Monday, Tigers head coach Rob Ambrose said he wasn't surprised Garroppolo was chosen over West.
"I was happy for Jimmy," Ambrose said. "He had a great career. I was happy for [Eastern Illinois head] coach [Dino] Babers. He's done a great job there. I was disappointed for Terrance, but I think he'll tell you that he doesn't need that trophy. For what? We're not done yet. Let's put it this way: Given the choice of having the trophy for player of the year and being able to keep playing, Terrance would have chucked the trophy at Jimmy and said, 'Have a good time. We're still playing.'"Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun