Every year the folks at the Downtown Athletic Club send me a Heisman Trophy ballot, and every year I write down my three choices and mail it back. I’ve gotta admit, I haven’t been real good at picking winners. The last one I got right, I think, was Jay Berwanger in 1935.
I didn’t vote for Ron Dayne. I didn’t vote for Charles Woodson. I didn’t vote for Danny Wuerffel. I didn’t vote for Eddie George. I didn’t vote for Rashaan Salaam. Their names were on my ballot except for Wuerffel’s, who I decided was a Torretta in Gator’s clothing but they weren’t my first choices.
This year I didn’t fill out my ballot until after the conference title games. It has been such an unpredictable year for Heisman candidates that I just wanted to make sure there were no last-minute surprises like Chris Weinke turning out to be 38 instead of 28. After all, until they got hurt, Clemson’s Woody Dantzler and Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick probably had as good a chance to win the award as anybody. And now they’re going to be watching the presentation on TV along with the rest of us. When was the last time that happened?
People always complain that the Heisman is too much of a quarterback’s award, so you’ll be pleased to know I voted for only one QB this year and it wasn’t Weinke or Drew Brees. Chris has had a terrific season, sure, but what Florida State quarterback hasn’t lately? There’s also the matter of his age; the man is a 10th-year senior. I know we’re not supposed to hold that against him, but I don’t know how you can dismiss it entirely. To me, Weinke isn’t the “Outstanding College Football Player of the United States,” as the trophy says, he’s the Outstanding Post-Graduate Football Player of the United States. Give him a medal for that.
(Is ESPN’s Chris Fowler serious when he says that being 28 doesn’t make Weinke a better quarterback? Of course it makes him a better quarterback not mechanically, maybe, but certainly mentally. He’s more mature, he’s wiser, and that enables him to make smarter decisions. Ask any college coach if, all other things being equal, he would rather have a 22-year-old QB or a 28-year-old QB. It’s a no-brainer.)
As for Brees, he gets points for leading Purdue to the Rose Bowl (for the first time since the Bob Griese era), but he’s the 25th-ranked passer in the country, for goodness sakes. I look at Drew Brees, and I see Mark Herrmann another Boilermakers quarterback who piled up huge numbers (but didn’t do much as a pro).
OK, without further ado, here are my top three choices for the Heisman (no snickering, please):
3. Santana Moss, receiver-returner, Miami. There’s just something about the guy. Every time I watched the Hurricanes, he brought me out of my seat. He returned four punts for touchdowns (tops in Division I-A), averaged 33.5 yards on six end-arounds and caught 45 passes a true triple threat. What more could he have done other than hack into the BCS computer and fix it so Miami got to play in the national championship game?
2. LaDainian Tomlinson, running back, Texas Christian. Sorry, but I’m a sucker for players who revive programs or take them to places they’ve never been. In Tomlinson’s freshman year, TCU was 1-10; this year, it’s 10-1 and ranked in the top 20. How’s that for a turnaround? Yeah, LaDainian gained most of his 2,158 rushing yards against Western Athletic Conference competition (read: second-tier), but he and the Horned Frogs are legit. They walloped Northwestern, 41-14, and the Wildcats wound up tying for the Big Ten championship.
The only question I had about him was whether I could fit his name all 18 letters on the ballot. It was a tight squeeze, but I managed.
1. Josh Heupel, quarterback, Oklahoma. Sometimes Heupel looks very ordinary as he did for stretches against Kansas State last week. But then he’ll make a tough throw or run for a first down when the Sooners need it most. He reminds me a little of Jake Plummer that way. And like Plummer, he has led his team to an undefeated regular season as a senior (and a berth in the national title game against Florida State).
Best of all, he’s from South Dakota. When am I going to get another chance to cast my Heisman vote for a South Dakotan? The state is really on a roll, you have to admit. First Mike Miller (Mitchell, S.D.) gets picked fifth in the NBA draft, then Sparky Anderson (Bridgewater, S.D.) gets inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and now Heupel (Aberdeen, S.D.) is one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.)
I wouldn’t bet on him winning the thing, though. I mean, he was my first choice. Kiss of death.