I'd say this is a fairly good example. That Cal Poly team isn't bad for a low-major, but it is by no means a strong team. And the player is weak. Not starting worked in his favor, as did the schedule.
The player in question probably wouldn't start for my D3 Methodist team. And he won D1 NPOY. Partly that's because the criteria for picking the awards are inevitably flawed. But largely it's because the guy was put in a situation where it would be easy for him to succeed.