For the third straight year, Sam Houston running back Timothy Flanders finds himself listed among some of the best players FCS football has to offer.

The Sports Network on Monday listed Flanders as one of the 20 players on the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top offensive player in FCS football.

Flanders was added to the Payton watch list mid-season in 2011, and has been on the list ever since, and he is joined by familiar company. Eleven finalists from last year's race - and a 12th from 2011 - are among the initial 20 nominees named for the 27th annual award, which will be presented on Dec. 16.

Flanders is the all-time leading rusher for the Bearkats with 4,234 career yards and 52 rushing touchdowns. He has been named to 10 different All-America teams and has twice been named the Southland Conference Player of the Year.

"As far as I'm concerned, Timothy is the best running back in the country," said head coach Willie Fritz. "There are so many things he does for our offense, I wouldn't trade him for anyone else."

In 2011, Flanders finished 7th in the final voting with 10 first place votes, seven seconds and five thirds and had a vote total of 112 points. Last season he dropped to 13th in the voting with just two first-place votes and 53 total points.

Returning to the Watch List as 2012 finalists are quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Jamal Jackson of Appalachian State, Gavin McCarney of Colgate, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State and Wynrick Smothers of Central Arkansas; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Flanders, Terrance West of Towson and Zach Zenner of South Dakota State; and wide receiver Erik Lora of Eastern Illinois.

Delaware running back Andrew Pierce, a 2011 finalist and a nominee to start last season, returns to the Watch List as well. Also named are quarterbacks Brock Jensen of North Dakota State, Jeff Mathews of Cornell and Jerick McKinnon of Georgia Southern; running backs David Johnson of Northern Iowa and Carlton Koonce of Fordham; and wide receivers Jordan Harris of Bryant, Sean Price of Appalachian State and Walter Powell of Murray State.

Bell, West and Flanders also were finalists in 2011. McGhee was a finalist in each of his first three seasons, starting in 2010. The Watch List's breakdown is eight running backs, seven quarterbacks and five wide receivers.

Past winners of the FCS' most coveted award include Steve McNair, Tony Romo and Brian Westbrook.

The Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the 2013 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards presentation.