Butler's Bushka Named to 2023 Walter Payton Award Preseason Watch List

Wednesday, August 2, 2023
by Butler Athletic Communications

INDIANAPOLIS – Butler quarterback Bret Bushka is one of 35 players to make the preseason watch list for the 2023 Walter Payton Award. Presented by FedEx Ground, the Walter Payton Award is an honor that Stats Perform presents to the National Offensive Player of the Year in Division I FCS college football. All 15 FCS conferences, which combine to form 13 leagues, are represented on the watch list, which includes 12 past finalists. Bushka was added to the watch list mid-season last year (Oct. 20) in the middle of a BU five-game winning streak.

The 2022 season was one to remember for Bushka. The 2022 Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Year threw for 2,377 yards and 20 touchdowns while also leading the Bulldogs with 627 rushing yards and five TD's. Bushka led the PFL in completion percentage (64%), passing efficiency, passing touchdowns, total offense, and yards per pass attempt. Butler also led all FCS teams in red zone offense with Bushka under center.

Season-high statistics for Bushka in 2023 included 338 passing yards vs. Dayton and 102 rushing yards at Davidson. Bushka passed for four touchdowns in the season opener vs. St. Thomas (Fla.) and would move forward with at least one TD pass in 10 of Butler's 11 games. His 2,377 passing yards were the eighth most in school history in a single-season. Bushka also moved to eighth all-time at Butler in career passing yards (4,135).

First awarded in 1987, the Payton has watched past recipients such as Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, Jimmy Garoppolo, Cooper Kupp and Trey Lance move on to the NFL. The 2022 winner was UIW quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. Fordham quarterback Tim DeMorat finished second in the voting and Monmouth running back Jaden Shirden was third.

Scott Jr. had 28 first-place votes to lead the results with 195 total points. DeMorat kept it close with 18 first-place votes to earn 171 points. First-place votes are worth five points, second-place votes are four points, a third-place vote gets you three points, a fourth-place vote goes for two points and a fifth-place vote is one point. More players can join the watch list before a national media panel selects the winner following the regular season.

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 Alliance)
Mark Gronowski, South Dakota State, Jr., 6-3, 220 (Missouri Valley Football Conference)
Nolan Groomes, 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-So., 6-3, 208 (United Athletic Conference) - 2022 Finalist
Tommy Mellott, Montana State, Jr., 6-0, 209 (Big Sky Conference) - 2022 Finalist
Justin Miller, Southern Utah, R-So., 6-3, 210 (United Athletic Conference)
Reece 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 Alliance)
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 Alliance) - 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)