The MEAC/SWAC Challenge announced today the two winners for this year’s Walter Payton Achievement Award. The award is given annually to a player from each of the schools participating in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney. This year’s game will pit MEAC defending champion South Carolina State University against 2008 SWAC title winner Grambling State University on Sunday, Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN2 HD and ESPN360.com, live from Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
Grambling State wide receiver Van Phillips, a sophomore from Irondale , Ala. , and South Carolina State defensive lineman Zachary Middleton, a junior from Orangeburg , S.C. , will be honored at the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff Banquet, set for 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Finalists are selected by a committee that includes academic advisers and coaches, and this year marks the first time that the winners were determined by fans’ votes.
Of Phillips, Grambling coach Rod Broadway said, “Van is a great student who has grown tremendously in the last year. We’re expecting great things from him because he’s a gifted athlete with size and speed.”
Of Middleton , South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough said, “A consummate professional and the most dependable and reliable football player I’ve been around during my career.”
Other finalists included South Carolina State ’s Otis Key (Sr., DL) and Marshall McFadden (Sr., LB); and Grambling’s Gabriel Fleming (So., DB), and Stephen Tripp (Sr., LB).
About the Walter Payton Achievement Award
The Walter Payton Achievement Award was first presented in 2008. The honor is given annually to a player from each school participating in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney. Like Payton, who starred at Jackson State from 1971 to ’74 and earned his bachelor’s degree in communications, the recipients must be high achievers in the classroom and on the football field. Nominees are selected by a committee consisting of academic advisers and coaches and the winners are determined by online fan voting. The inaugural award recipients were Jackson State University linebacker Marcus Smith and Hampton University wide receiver Kevin Teel.
About the MEAC/SWAC Challenge
Each year, the game is played at a neutral site within the footprint of one of the conferences. The inaugural MEAC/SWAC Challenge in 2005 showcased the MEAC’s South Carolina State vs. Alabama State of the SWAC, with South Carolina State prevailing, 27-14. In 2006, the contest went into overtime with the MEAC’s Hampton University defeating the SWAC’s Grambling State , 27-26. The SWAC earned its first MEAC/SWAC Challenge trophy in 2007 as Southern defeated Florida A&M, 33-27. Last year, the event moved from Legion Field in Birmingham , Ala. , to Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, where the MEAC reclaimed the MEAC/SWAC Challenge crown, as Hampton defeated Jackson State 17-13. The MEAC leads the series 3-1. Teams for future games are determined on an annual basis.