My Heisman ballot, for all the good it will do

Can we just admit right now that the Heisman Trophy does not, in fact, reward the most outstanding player in college football, or do we have to wait until Saturday?

The Heisman Trophy rewards the most outstanding offensive player in college football, and frankly, even that is too broad because the next offensive lineman to win the award will be the first.

The Heisman Trophy rewards the most outstanding offensive skill position player in college football, and if you’re a wide receiver it’s going on twenty years since somebody with your job description won it, so good luck.

This is an award for the glory hogs, OK? Of the last thirteen winners, ten were quarterbacks and the other three were running backs. Two positions out of twenty-two, thirteen years in a row.

That’s fine. Fans love the glory hogs. Just call it what it is. Don’t pretend it’s going to the best player — most outstanding player is the language in the instructions — if it’s impossible for the vast majority of positions to win it.

Charles Woodson, you say. Right. Out of 76 winners of the annual award, one had a defensive position — cornerback — listed next to his name.

Of course, Woodson wasn’t solely a cornerback in college. He also played a little wide receiver for Michigan, and was a thrilling punt returner. Without those credits, he never would have won it. So the fact remains that no one playing exclusively on the defensive side of the ball has ever won the thing.

Not only that, Woodson beat out Peyton Manning in 1997 for the 63rd Heisman, so you can bet Heisman voters won’t make that mistake again.

Keep this in mind: Woodson won in ’97 with eight interceptions. As a defensive back.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o had seven interceptions this season. As a linebacker. Along with 103 tackles. For the No. 1 team in the country. The best player on the best team.

Hmm. I know I’ve heard that expression before.

But no, you say. This is not an award for the most valuable player. It’s an award for the most outstanding player.

What does that mean, exactly? It means quarterback or running back, that’s what.

Of the last eleven Heismans, ten went to quarterbacks. When Johnny Manziel becomes the first freshman winner Saturday, it will be eleven out of twelve. Manziel has to win because he has more total yards than the other quarterbacks who have won, so you can see how the diminishing eligibility criteria become self-fulfilling.

Te’o will join Hugh Green of Pittsburgh in 1980 as only the second defensive player to finish second. That will have to be enough.

Well, that and the Maxwell Award, which also purports to honor the most outstanding player in college football. The Maxwell broke with tradition to assert that a defensive player as good as Te’o deserved that honorific for the first time since 1980.

Good for the Maxwell. Even as the Heisman narrows its view of eligibility for outstandingness, maybe the Maxwell will continue to expand its view.

Oh, Te’o also won the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. And the Bednarik Award for best defensive player.

So Manti is collecting plenty of hardware. He’ll be fine. Just don’t tell me the Heisman recognizes the most outstanding player in college football. Because that’s got to be a defender occasionally. Just by the law of averages.

Anyway, my Heisman ballot, filed on time and everything, for all the good it will do:

1. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame.

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.

3. Collin Klein (of Loveland, Colo.), Kansas State.

How about we just call it the Heisman Glory Hound Award? Would that work for everybody?

About Dave Krieger

Dave Krieger is a recidivist newspaperman. View all posts by Dave Krieger

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