College football is now dotted with numerous postseason awards. What once was a small collection of honors has morphed into a cornucopia of recognition for almost every position on the field. At the Football Championship Subdivision (Division 1-AA) however, things are still kept relatively simple. And Bills sixth-round pick Arthur Moats was the recipient of an award that provides convincing history when trying to ascertain the level of success Moats will achieve in the NFL.
Moats was the 2009 recipient of the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the Football Championship Subdivision Defensive Player of the Year. Setting a school record with 23.5 tackles for loss in his final collegiate season, a figure that ranked seventh in the nation, he was also fourth in the country in sacks among FCS players (11).
Knowing he was nominated for the award about halfway through his senior season, Moats did a little research and was impressed with what he found.
"I kind of did some homework on the award," he said. "And I saw the last few guys that had won it went on to the NFL and had successful careers. I was thinking I want to be a part of that elite company."
The award has only been in existence since 1995, but there is already a solid list of NFL players that were recipients of the award that went on to succeed at the pro level.
The first was Dexter Coakley, the inaugural winner in 1995, which he repeated after his senior season at Appalachian State in 1996. Coakley went on to a productive eight-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, which included three Pro Bowls.
Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Edgerton Hartwell won the award in 2000 coming out of Western Illinois, though his pro career was cut short by injury after six seasons.
Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis (Bethune-Cookman) was the Buchanan Award winner in 2002 and has Pro Bowl and 1st Team All-Pro honors to his credit.
The most decorated NFL player to have won the Buchanan Award is Minnesota's Jared Allen. The Idaho State product won the award in 2005 and has since become a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end and has been named 1st Team All-Pro three times as well.
Seeing that list of NFL success stories has only served to give Moats an extra confidence boost that he belongs at the NFL level.
"It felt like it solidified everything as far as my college career was concerned," he said. "I came in as a true freshman playing and left as the best player in the nation. So it solidified things for me."
Invited to the NFL combine in late February prior to the draft, Moats heard a lot about his award from the NFL scouts, coaches and general managers with whom he spoke. He also noticed more scouts were following up and visiting the James Madison campus after he was named the Buck Buchanan award winner.
"I think there was more interest after that," said Moats. "It kind of just verified my caliber of play. So after winning the award it seemed to convince scouts of what they initially thought about me."
Moats knew once he chose to play at James Madison that he would have to dominate to stand out and be considered a legitimate NFL prospect.
"I had an opportunity to go to some bigger schools, but I wanted to play right away," he said. "At the bigger schools I would have had to redshirt. But I knew coming from a small school I would have to dominate year in or year out especially when it came to the draft. So I was determined to do my best and really put myself on the map and I felt I did a really good job with that."
Considered by many to be a fourth-round prospect Buffalo was fortunate that Moats was still on the board in round six. Ironically, the Bills took another Football Championship Subdivision prospect that was also in the running for the Buchanan Award in linebacker Danny Batten.
The South Dakota St. product finished third in the voting behind Moats.
"I wasn't initially aware of that," said Moats. "After (the Bills) picked him I researched him a little bit and saw that. I thought that was pretty cool."
While the Buchanan Award may not carry the same prestige as the Heisman Trophy it does have a similar kind of fraternity. Moats had a good conversation with Dexter Coakley after meeting him at his award ceremony. He believes a similar exchange could take place after games this season with Mathis and Allen.
"I don't see why it shouldn't be like that," he said.
Moats understands as his professional career begins that the Buchanan Award won't guarantee him anything in the NFL. Still he is to be the recipient of an honor that is as good as it gets for a defensive player at the FCS level.
"I definitely do wear it with pride," he said. "Everyone else that has won this award went on to the NFL and succeeded and I feel I shouldn't be any different. I kind of feel I have to keep the tradition going."