The Heisman trophy is awarded to the best college football player in the nation, or is it?
If you’re a Division I football player, you want to be regarded as one of the best players in the nation. Every year, the top players in the nation have two main goals in mind before they declare for the NFL draft: win both the National Championship and the Heisman Award. The Heisman Award is the most prestigious honor in all of college sports. It recognizes the best and most outstanding player in the country, or so it’s told.
For years the trophy has gone to two main positions: quarterback and running back. More quarterbacks win since they have the better chance to impact a team. But just because they’re the most famous and glorified position in football doesn’t mean you should discredit other position skills. The voting process is similar to the presidential election in a way. Out of 929 ballots, 145 voters are chosen from each of the six regions in the country to make up 870 ballots. The rest of the votes come from former Heisman winners and a fan vote. With the process being this elaborate, the question arises, should we trust the outcome?
The voting process is a smart idea. Having sports journalists and the former award winners come to a consensus for the award is the best way to vote for the winner. There is a nice ceremony at the end of the season in which the finalist come to New York City and meet the greats that came before them as they await to see if they will be next in line. My only problem with the group of voters is that they have favoritism towards quarterbacks in the process. One of the biggest snubs for the award was Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
In 2003, Pittsburgh’s star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was torching defenses across the country as he set the school record for catches (92), receiving yards (1,672), and receiving touchdowns (22) in a single season that still stand to this day. His offensive productivity helped lead his team to an 8-5 record and a bowl game appearance. The amazing effort and numbers weren’t enough as he finished second in Heisman voting.
The winner that year was Oklahoma QB Jason White. To be fair, Jason did put up a worthy case for the award. He broke the single season passing touchdown record (40) and led his team to a 12-2 record and a bowl game appearance. This is an NFL-caliber season by White, but Fitzgerald set three records and helped Pittsburgh, a college team that’s not known to be very good, to a winning record as Jason White had a great season but was on a team that’s usually a top team in the nation. Doing more with a worst team is more impressive and is why Larry Fitzgerald should’ve won the 2003 Heisman. White went on to be undrafted while Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers of his time and is a future Hall of Famer.
In 1997, Charles Woodson won the Heisman. Woodson deserved this because he was the most versatile player on the Michigan roster. He played defensive back as his primary role but was also the Wolverine’s return specialist while also taking snaps on offense as a wide receiver and running back. Defensively he was a ball hawk as he collected 7 interceptions on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, he hauled in 11 catches for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns and also ran the ball 3 times and gained 15 yards and 1 touchdown. As a returner on special teams, Woodson had 33 returns for 283 yards and took one back for a touchdown. This stupendous effort and production put in by Woodson’s ability to make an impact on all parts of the game was crucial for Michigan as the team went undefeated with a 12-0 record and also went on to defeat the Washington State Cougars 21-16 in the Rose Bowl. This eventful season caught the eyes of the Heisman voters as Woodson received 433 first place votes over the likes of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning who only received 281 first place votes. With a 152 margin of votes, Charles Woodson made history as he became the first defensive player to win the Heisman trophy.
As I mentioned before, the Heisman is very quarterback-biased. Every year you can trust and believe that at least three out of the four or five finalists will be a quarterback, similar to this year. As the season winds down, the finalists for the award are LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young. While most of the finalists are quarterbacks, I believe that Fields could become only the second defensive play to be awarded this trophy.
Chase Young is a defensive end for the Ohio State Buckeyes and has a compelling case for the award. Young, in just 11 games, leads the nation in sacks (16.5). He is the first Buckeye to record 10 or more sacks in multiple seasons since Mike Vrabel. He is first nationally in tackles for loss per game (1.91) and is tied for fourth with 21 tackles for loss, including 16 solo. Thanks to Young, Ohio State’s defense is second in the NCAA in total defense, and third in scoring defense. Behind Young, Ohio State’s defense is second in the NCAA in total defense (247.6) and third in scoring defense (12.5).
In the Wisconsin game, he made his Heisman case with 6 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, a whooping 4 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles as he helped lead the team to a dominant 38-7 win. In my opinion, he is the best player in the nation and has quickly become a favorite for the illustrious award. I believe he should be the next defensive player to win since Michigan safety Charles Woodson won the award back in 1997.
Sadly, the breakout defensive end destined to go pro was suspended for 4 game as there was an investigation of a possible NCAA rule violation back in 2018. He took to twitter and tweeted that he accepted a loan from a family friend. After missing the game against Maryland, the NCAA reduced his suspension to 2 games. With him only playing in 11 games, it definitely has hurt his Heisman hopes a bit. But honestly, even with this suspension, I still have him as the 2020 Heisman winner.