- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 1999

Halfway through the college football season, I figured filling out my Heisman Trophy ballot would be a snap. Joe Hamilton was having a fabulous year for a very good Georgia Tech team, and I’ve always been a sucker for quarterbacks who can run as well as pass. “Unless Hamilton gets stung by a giant yellow jacket and his arm swells up,” I told myself, “he’s my man.”
Well, Hamilton didn’t get stung by a giant yellow jacket, but something else unforeseen happened: His team ran out of steam. In fact, if an official hadn’t blown a call at the end of the Georgia game, Tech would have lost three of its last four and finished an uninspiring 7-4. Granted, Hamilton played well in the defeats, but the karma was all wrong. And I weigh karma heavily when I’m considering who to give the Heisman to.
A year ago, for instance, I was ready to list Kansas State QB Michael Bishop as my first choice until his fumble near the end of the Big XII title game helped Texas A&M; come back and win. Because of that single, ill-timed mistake, I dropped Bishop to No. 2 on my ballot (behind Ricky Williams). Sorry, but when you cost your team a shot at its first national championship, I ain’t gonna give ya the Heisman as a consolation prize.
Hamilton, I’ve decided, is this year’s Cade McNown a terrific college quarterback on a team that can’t stop anybody. Remember how lame the UCLA defense was last season, especially down the stretch? Well, Georgia Tech’s has been every bit as hopeless. The Yellow Jackets’ last two wins were by scores of 45-42 (over Clemson) and 51-48 (in overtime over Georgia). It’s not fair, Joe, I know, but your defense D’-stroyed your Heisman chances. I scribbled you in as my third choice; that’s the best I can do for you.
I wish there were a defensive player I could have put on my ballot. You know me, I’m an equal opportunity Heisman voter. (I gave my third-place vote to cornerback Charles Woodson in ‘97 and to cornerback/ receiver Champ Bailey last year.) But there’s no defender who really jumps out at me not even LaVar Arrington, the much-hyped Penn State linebacker. Arrington made some spectacular plays, he just didn’t make enough of them.
It’s not just defensive players who are lacking, though. The field as a whole is pretty thin. There just aren’t many guys who seem Heisman-worthy. Of course, it doesn’t help that Florida State receiver Peter Warrick, who probably has as much talent as anyone, eliminated himself from serious contention by getting in trouble with the law. It’s an absolute shame, I agree, but at least one good thing will come of it: No Heisman candidate will ever pay less than full price for clothing again.
Unfortunately, Warrick still doesn’t get it. When he found out he wasn’t one of the five finalists and wouldn’t be going to New York for the presentation, he said, “I’m very hurt. I know I made a mistake, but what I did off the field shouldn’t have anything to do with what I do every Saturday. Every Saturday I came to play… . “
No, not every Saturday, Peter. You missed two Saturdays and games against Miami and Wake Forest while attending to your legal problems. (What’s sickening is that even the Florida State coaches alleged grownups think the Heisman voters done Warrick wrong. Noting that four of the finalists are quarterbacks, assistant head coach Chuck Amato groused, “They ought to make that the Johnny Unitas Award.” Now I’m really glad I didn’t include Warrick on my ballot.)
OK, let’s move on to my second choice. And that would be … Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne. Most people think Dayne is going to win and he likely will but, frankly, I prefer Heisman winners with a little more pizzazz. Substance is swell, and Dayne has plenty of that, but I want style, too. I want somebody with a high EOYS (Edge of Your Seat) rating. Dayne is basically a sledgehammer; he should get the Ace Hardware Award, not the Heisman.
When I think of Dayne, I think of Craig “Ironhead” Heywood more than I think of Marion Motley. Also, I read on his Web page all serious Heisman aspirants have to have a Web page that he has “made nearly half of his collegiate yardage [including a record 6,397 yards rushing] after contact.” What this means is: After four seasons in Barry Alvarez’s offense, Dayne has more wear and tear on his body than a 97-year-old man. Good luck to the NFL club that drafts him.
That leaves Michael Vick, Virginia Tech’s quarterback extraordinaire, as my No. 1 Heisman pick. I know, I know: Vick is only a redshirt freshman. But he has been the X factor in the Hokies’ so-far perfect season. And he has taken the program somewhere it has never been to a berth in the “national championship game” against Florida State.
That scores big points with me. Dayne and Hamilton have carried their programs, yes, but they haven’t taken them anywhere new and exotic. Wisconsin won the Rose Bowl in ‘93 without Dayne. Georgia Tech shared the national title in ‘90 a feat Hamilton’s teams haven’t come close to duplicating. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, had virtually no football tradition until Vick came along. He’s putting Blacksburg on the college football map.
Some will say, “Hamilton’s statistics [66.7 percent completions, 278.2 yards passing a game, 29 touchdown passes, 734 yards rushing] dwarf Vick’s (59.2 percent completions, 184 yards passing a game, 12 TD passes, 585 yards rushing). How could you possibly put Vick ahead of Hamilton?”
The answer is simple, really.
Because it’s my ballot, that’s why.

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