|Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports|
|Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo has helped his draft stock with a prolific senior season.|
Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has won the Walter Payton Award, the FCS version of the Heisman. He is the second EIU player to win the award; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is the other, in 2002.
Garoppolo (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) threw for an NCAA-best 5,050 yards and 52 touchowns this season. He also rushed for four scores.
It appears he is rising up draft boards.
"I know some teams have him as a mid-round guy, while others aren't as high on him," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "He won over some personnel guys with his performance against San Diego State."
Garoppolo threw for 361 yards and three TDs when Eastern Illinois hammered the Aztecs 41-21 in the season opener for both. As a point of comparison, Fresno State's Derek Carr threw for 298 yards and two TDs in a 35-28 victory over San Diego State, and San Jose State's David Fales threw for 301 yards, three TDs and two interceptions in a 34-30 loss to the Aztecs.
Garoppolo threw for 300 yards in 11 of EIU's 14 games and five times surpassed the 400-yard plateau. He also tossed at least three TD passes in 11 games and four times threw at least five.
"Jimmy has had the best season from a college quarterback that I have ever seen, with the exception of maybe Robert Griffin when he won the Heisman at Baylor," EIU coach Dino Babers, in his second season since arriving from Baylor, told The Sports Network.
Other previous Payton Award winners include Towson State's Dave Meggett (1988), Alcorn State's Steve McNair (1994), Villanova's Brian Finneran (1997), New Hampshire's Jerry Azumah (1998), Villanova's Brian Westbrook (2001) and Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards (2008 and '09).
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.