Payton Award winner nets MEAC honor

Nesly Marcellon has performed extremely well on and off the field for Bethune-Cookman’s football team. His hard work and dedication as a student-athlete has earned a special honor. Dr. Dennis Thomas, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference commissioner, named Marcellon as a recipient of the 2013-14 Post Graduate Scholarship.

“The program has been around for almost 20 years,” Thomas said. “We established it because we had some talented student-athletes who wanted to further their education, and we wanted to let them know that the conference was committed to their academic success. That’s really why we established it – to help our best and brightest student-athletes achieve their academics and professional goals.”

Marcellon, who hails from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., completed his final year of eligibility for the Wildcats and received his degree from Bethune-Cookman in May. He is the first B-CU player under head coach Brian Jenkins to earn this scholarship.

A year ago, Marcellon, a linebacker for the Wildcats, had 10 starts and played in all 13 games. He recorded 37 tackles, three sacks, two hurries and forced one fumble in leading B-CU to the MEAC title.

In 2011, Marcellon earned the Walter Payton Achievement Award, which is given to one player from each school participating in the annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the annual HBCU game, which kicks off at 11:45 a.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 31. The game will be televised on ESPN, live from Bright House Stadium at UCF in Orlando, Fla.

The award, named after one of the greatest athletes in history, was started in 2008 to recognize football players who are great students and solid contributors on the field. Jarrett Payton, Walter Payton’s son, makes the presentation of the award each year, reminding the recipients that football served as a vehicle to success for his father. The nominees for this year were announced last week, and voting is open until Aug. 20.

“The biggest thing for the family is to keep my dad’s legacy alive,” said Jarrett Payton, a former Miami Hurricanes running back who also played for the NFL's Tennessee Titans for two years, as well as the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe. Payton is an active speaker and radio host in Chicago. “I think with all the awards out there, it’s pretty cool to be able to kind of look and see the impact that my dad left not just football, but lives. The MEAC/SWAC Challenge gives my dad a chance to be recognized and remembered.”

Thomas has strong recollections of Walter Payton, the Professional Football Hall of Fame member who starred at Jackson State and for the Chicago Bears.

“I am a big fan of Walter Payton,” Thomas said. “We had a good relationship. I’ve played against him. I have a lot of memories of his career – and obviously people remember Walter for his athletic career, and it was a tremendous one, a Hall of Fame one. But my favorite memory of him was the kind of person he was. He was kind – always wanting to help others to be better people.”

Marcellon is certainly one of those people.