MARK FERRANTE has been with Andy Talley since he played quarterback for him at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., where he was the 1982 Division III Player of the Year and led the Saints to the NCAA semifinals. Five years later he joined Talley's staff at Villanova, where in 2009 he was part of the team that won the FCS championship.

Now the Wildcats' assistant head coach/offensive line coach has been named the FCS Assistant of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association. The award was created in 1997 to honor assistants who excel in community service, commitment to the student-athlete, on-field success and AFCA professional organization involvement.

"To be recognized at this level is a tremendous honor," Ferrante said. "There's a lot of quality individuals out there that are as deserving. You hope you can stand up there one day (on the podium) and say you were one of them. So I'm really looking forward to that.

"Coach Talley was really the one who convinced me and talked me into becoming a college coach. I never thought about what I was going to do (after graduation). He's been my coach, my mentor in this profession and my friend."

Ferrante will receive his award at the AFC Convention on Jan. 11 in San Antonio.

"Your head coaches are only as good as the top guys they surround themselves with," Talley said. "That's never been more true than here at Villanova. We've been through thick and thin. He's helped prepare a lot of guys along the way to understand the message of what we're about.

"He's a winner. The best ones have it. I can't define it, but they all have it. And you know it when you see it . . . He's been so loyal, and garnered so much respect throughout the country. He's always given his time and energy, to make a real difference."