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Catching up with QB Chris Lum Before Frisco

It's a few days before what could be a spectacular finale to senior QB Chris Lum's Lehigh football career.

This weekend, he's headed to Frisco, TX, where he will discover if he'll be Lehigh's first-ever winner of the Walter Payton award.

The Payton Award, offered by the Sports Network to the most valuable player in Division I Football Championship Subdivision, has been called the "Heisman Trophy" of FCS.

So what was the first thing he mentioned to me when I contacted him?

His grades from the past semester.

"I'm currently on winter break and my last exam of the semester was Dec. 20," was the first thing Chris told me by email.  "I just found out I earned a 3.92 GPA this past fall semester."

Of all the record-breaking football-related statistics he could have mentioned - 4,378 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, his 22-6 record as a starter - it's telling that the first thing he mentioned was his GPA.

Just another sign that we do things different in the Patriot League.

But that doesn't mean that he's any less proud of the achievements on the gridiron in the past couple of years, including the third and fourth straight wins over Lafayette, and winning back-to-back Patriot League championships with perfect Patriot League records.

"Last year was an awesome year and I'm very proud of what our team accomplished," he said.  "It's a great feeling to know my senior class helped bring this program back to where it belongs. We've been a part of the bad seasons of 5-6 and 4-7, and it feels good to leave our mark with what we've accomplished the last two years."

Outside the circle of the Patriot League, those accomplishments also included a 14-7 playoff victory against Northern Iowa, the Missouri Valley champion in 2010, and a thrilling 42-40 win over Towson, the CAA champion in 2011.

"I think this past season proved that we did have a lot of talent and could play with and beat some of the nation's best FCS teams, " he said. "We always thought we were the underdog, which gave us a lot of motivation to prove people wrong."

Along with all his team success came two single-season Patriot League records, completions (breaking the record held by Holy Cross QB Dominic Randolph) and passing yards (held by Towson QB Joe Lee, a record that seemed like it might never be broken).  He also beat Lehigh's single-season touchdown pass mark, previously owned by QB Glenn Kempa.

Since the end of last season - and after final exams, of course - Chris has been a lot of places, including his hometown in Michigan for Christmas, Florida, and New York City.  He'll head to Frisco, TX on Friday for the Walter Payton Award ceremony, and will stay to watch the national championship game at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday."

He's not rooting for one team or another, but he's expecting a great game.

He does, of course, know one of the teams playing in Frisco quite well.

North Dakota State was the team that ended Lehigh's run at the national championship with a very impressive 24-0 victory on December 10th - only 10 days before Chris' last final exam.

"North Dakota State was a very good team," he said.  "We found out right from the beginning that it was going to be a very physical, hard fought game. They brought a lot of pressure in a variety of ways. There was some disappointment in that game, but I know our players gave it all we had. Even if our performance and execution wasn't sound, we know we left it all out on the field."

After Frisco, he'll eventually return to Lehigh for classes to start on Jan. 16.   Chris has four classes remaining before he graduates on time in May - he didn't redshirt, as in the Patriot League the only way to get an extra year of eligibility is through medical hardship - and then he's looking to train to "go through the process of pursuing a professional team," as he puts it.

"I'm very excited and motivated to keep my football playing days alive and doing all that I can to make sure they do," he said.  "I took a couple weeks off after the season to heal up, but I am now beginning my pursuit to the NFL or possibly another professional league and have begun training."

As for the Payton award, what are his thoughts?

"I hope I win! The other two finalists are outstanding players and had outstanding seasons."

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