Penguins Land Cook and Hess on Walter Payton Award Watch List

Jamaine Cook and Kurt Hess.
Jamaine Cook and Kurt Hess.

The Youngstown State football program is one of just two FCS squads with two players on the Walter Payton Award Watch List, The Sports Network announced on Thursday. Senior tailback Jamaine Cook and junior quarterback Kurt Hess both represent the Penguins.

Cook and Hess joined Sam Houston State juniors Timothy Flanders (running back) and Richard Sincere (all-purpose) as teammates who made the preseason list.

Twelve of this year's initial 20 nominees were finalists for the award last year, including finalist Shakir Bell of Indiana State. Ten running backs, six quarterbacks, three wide receivers and an all-purpose performer make up the preseason Watch List group.

The 2011 finalists returning to the Watch List are quarterbacks Casey Brockman of Murray State, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State and Brad Sorensen of Southern Utah; running backs Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Jordan Brown of Bryant, Cook, Flanders, Andrew Pierce of Delaware and Terrance West of Towson; fullback Eric Breitenstein of Wofford; and wide receivers Aaron Mellette of Elon and Rodrick Rumble of Idaho State.

Hess is a first-time Payton Award List notable along with fellow quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion and Jeff Mathews of Cornell; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Matt Denham of Eastern Kentucky and Miguel Maysonet of Stony Brook; Sincere; and wide receiver Ryan Spadola of Lehigh.

Both Hess and Cook were first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selections in 2011.

Cook, who earlier this week was tabbed a third-team preseason All-America by the Sports Network, rushed for 1,386 yards on 271 carries and scored 13 touchdowns. In 2011, Cook was seventh in the FCS in rushing (126.00) and 14th in all-purpose yards (145.36) per contest.

Hess passed for 2,468 yards while completing 187-of-288 attempts in a breakout campaign during the 2011 season. He averaged 245.8 yards passing per contest and his 164.9 passing efficiency rating was fourth best in the FCS. He set school records for single-season touchdown passes (26), completion percentage (64.5), 200-yard games (eight), touchdown passes in consecutive games (11) and touchdown passes in a game (five vs. Missouri State).

The Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the 2012 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation.