CollegeMontana State Bobcats


Montana State's Tommy Mellott, Sebastian Valdez on Payton, Buchanan watch lists

Posted at 7:02 PM, Aug 04, 2023

(Editor's note: Montana State athletics release.)

BOZEMAN — Quarterback Tommy Mellott and defensive tackle Sebastian Valdez, a pair of Montana State juniors, landed on preseason watch lists for STATS Perform FCS national awards this week, the organization announced.

Mellott enters 2023 as one of 35 players on the preseason watch list for the Walter Payton Award, presented to the top offensive player in the FCS. Mellott rushed for 1,068 yards and threw for 1,698 as a sophomore in 2022, leading the Cats to a 12-2 record, a Big Sky championship and a trip to the FCS semifinals while earning second-team All-Big Sky honors.

He is one of 17 quarterbacks on the list, including two others from the Big Sky Conference. In all, five players from Big Sky schools enter the season on the Payton list.

Valdez, on the list for the Buck Buchanan Award for defensive player of the year, turned in a big sophomore season a year ago, rolling up 10 tackles-for-loss which included 7.5 sacks. A first-team All-Big Sky selection, Valdez led the Big Sky’s top-ranked rushing defense.

Among the 35 players on the preseason Buchanan list, Valdez is one of 14 defensive linemen and one of six from the Big Sky Conference.

More players can join these watch lists during the regular season before a national media panel selects the winner from a group of finalists.

The Walter Payton Award, Buck Buchanan Award, Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) and the Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year will be presented at the national awards banquet on the eve of the FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas.

Following are the preseason lists for the Payton and Buchanan awards:



Tommy Mellott, Montana State, Jr., 6-0, 209 (Big Sky Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Bret Bushka, Butler, R-Sr., 5-10, 205 (Pioneer Football League)

Zach Calzada, UIW, Gr., 6-4, 217 (Southland Conference)

Theo Day, Northern Iowa, R-Sr., 6-5, 231 (Missouri Valley Football Conference)

Cole Doyle, Saint Francis, R-Jr., 5-10, 170 (Northeast Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Zevi Eckhaus, Bryant, Jr., 6-1, 205 (Big South-OVC Football Association)

Mark Gronowski, South Dakota State, Jr., 6-3, 220 (Missouri Valley Football Conference)

Nolan Grooms, Yale, Sr., 6-2, 188 (Ivy League)

Miles Hastings, UC Davis, Jr., 6-1, 189 (Big Sky Conference)

Michael Hiers, Samford, Sr., 6-1, 211 (Southern Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Gevani McCoy, Idaho, R-So., 6-2, 185 (Big Sky Conference)

Parker McKinney, Eastern Kentucky, R-Sr., 6-3, 208 (United Athletic Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Justin Miller, Southern Utah, R-Sr., 6-3, 210 (United Athletic Conference)

Reese Poffenbarger, UAlbany, R-So., 6-0, 210 (CAA Football)

Davius Richard, North Carolina Central, Sr., 6-3, 215 (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Tommy Schuster, North Dakota, Sr., 6-0, 195 (Missouri Valley Football Conference)

Matthew Sluka, Holy Cross, Sr., 6-3, 215 (Patriot League) - 2022 Finalist

Running Backs

Isaiah Davis, South Dakota State, Sr., 6-1, 220 (Missouri Valley Football Conference)

Ailym Ford, Chattanooga, R-Sr., 5-9, 213 (Southern Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Narii Gaither, Gardner-Webb, Sr., 5-10, 181 (Big South-OVC Football Association)

Malik Grant, Sacred Heart, Gr., 5-9, 200 (Northeast Conference) - 2021 Finalist

Geno Hess, Southeast Missouri, R-Sr., 5-8, 222 (Big South-OVC Football Association) - 2021 and 2022 Finalist

Jarveon Howard, Alcorn State, Sr., 5-10, 200 (Southwestern Athletic Conference)

Dylan Laube, New Hampshire, Sr., 5-10, 204 (CAA Football)

ShunDerrick Powell, Central Arkansas, Jr., 5-7, 168 (United Athletic Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Dominic Roberto, Furman, R-Sr., 5-11, 231 (Southern Conference)

Jaden Shirden, Monmouth, Jr., 5-9, 185 (CAA Football) - 2022 Finalist

TaMerik Williams, North Dakota State, Sr., 6-1, 227 (Missouri Valley Football Conference)

Bronson Yoder, William & Mary, Sr., 5-11, 205 (CAA Football)

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Jalen Coker, Holy Cross, Sr., 6-3, 207 (Patriot League)

Devron Harper, Mercer, Sr., 5-9, 168 (Southern Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Hayden Hatten, Idaho, R-Jr., 6-2, 205 (Big Sky Conference)

Ty James, Mercer, R-Sr., 6-2, 200 (Southern Conference)

Jaxon Janke, South Dakota State, Sr., 6-3, 210 (Missouri Valley Football Conference)

Marshel Martin, Sacramento State, Sr., 6-2, 210 (Big Sky Conference)


Defensive Linemen

Sebastian Valdez, Montana State, Jr., 6-3, 291 (Big Sky Conference)

Sundiata Anderson, Grambling State, Sr., 6-5, 240 (Southwestern Athletic Conference)

Finn Claypool, Drake, R-So., 6-1, 240 (Pioneer Football League)

Daylan Dotson, UT Martin, Jr., 6-3, 280 (Big South-OVC Football Association)

Ty French, Gardner-Webb, Sr., 6-3, 230 (Big South-OVC Football Association) - 2022 Finalist

Patrick Godbolt, South Carolina State, Sr., 6-3, 235 (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference)

Thor Griffith, Harvard, Sr., 6-2, 305 (Ivy League)

Nate Lynn, William & Mary, Sr., 6-3, 255 (CAA Football) - 2021 Finalist

Eli Mostaert, North Dakota State, Sr., 6-3, 286 (Missouri Valley Football Conference)

Eric O’Neill, LIU, So., 6-3, 240 (Northeast Conference)

Jay Person, Chattanooga, Sr., 6-3, 224 (Southern Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Josiah Silver, New Hampshire, Jr., 6-2, 243 (CAA Football)

David Walker, Central Arkansas, Jr., 6-3, 265 (United Athletic Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Syrus Webster, Utah Tech, Jr., 6-4, 255 (United Athletic Conference)


Colton Adams, Alabama State, R-Jr., 6-2, 230 (Southwestern Athletic Conference)

Armon Bailey, Sacramento State, Sr., 6-1, 228 (Big Sky Conference)

Adam Bock, South Dakota State, Sr., 6-1, 215 (Missouri Valley Football Conference) - 2021 Finalist

Rodney Dansby, Houston Christian, Jr., 6-0, 225 (Southland Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Jacob Dobbs, Holy Cross, Sr., 6-0, 237 (Patriot League) - 2021 Finalist

Isaac Dowling, Mercer, Jr., 5-10, 225 (Southern Conference)

David Hoage, Northern Colorado, Sr., 6-3, 245 (Big Sky Conference)

Liam Johnson, Princeton, Sr., 6-0, 220 (Ivy League)

Bryce Norman, Southeast Missouri, Jr., 6-0, 226 (Big South-OVC Football Association) - 2022 Finalist

John Pius, William & Mary, R-Jr., 6-2, 230 (CAA Football) - 2022 Finalist

Winston Reid, Weber State, Sr., 6-1, 230 (Big Sky Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Tristan Wheeler, Richmond, R-Sr., 6-2, 228 (CAA Football) - 2020 and 2022 Finalist

Antoine Williams, Western Carolina, Jr., 5-10, 205 (Southern Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Defensive Backs

Maxwell Anderson, Weber State, Sr., 5-11, 170 (Big Sky Conference)

Khalil Baker, North Carolina Central, Sr., 6-0, 185 (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) - 2022 Finalist

Kameron Brown, Chattanooga, Sr., 5-9, 179 (Southern Conference)

Rex Connors, UC Davis, R-So., 6-1, 203 (Big Sky Conference)

Myles Harden, South Dakota, Sr., 6-0, 190 (Missouri Valley Football Conference)

Devin Haskins, Holy Cross, Sr., 6-3, 209 (Patriot League)

Lawrence Johnson, Southeast Missouri, Gr., 6-0, 196 (Big South-OVC Football Association)

TaMuarion Wilson, Central Arkansas, Jr., 6-2, 205 (United Athletic Conference)