Jordan Lynch should strike the Heisman Trophy pose
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com | @ricktelander December 3, 2013 10:36PM
Western Michigan v Northern Illinois
Updated: December 4, 2013 10:08AM
I save these cool Heisman Journals sent out by the Heisman Trophy Trust each year — got them going back to 1995, when I started at the newspaper.
In the earliest edition, there’s an article explaining how the trophy itself was fashioned from clay in 1934 by famed sculptor Frank Eliscu, using some dude named Ed Smith from NYU’s football team as his model. The Heisman people had decided old-fashioned cups or bowls were too commonplace for their lofty prize and that the trophy ‘‘should be the replica in bronze of a muscular footballer driving for yardage.’’
Walter Payton wasn’t available, so we have Smith doing his thing.
Actually, he’s stiff-arming menacingly with his right hand out, fingers splayed, his left leg trailing dramatically like a plastic worm trolled teasingly for bass, in a pose so cornball and iconic that it has been struck for decades by players from college on down to basement Nerfball fields after big plays.
There, I just did it myself. Feels good. Feels all Gipper-ish. Gotta chuckle.
So, anyway, as a Heisman voter, I need to make a decision each year about who should get the 45-pound statue, a copy of which 1968 winner O.J. Simpson sold for $230,000.
The conditions and terms are somewhat vague.
We’re looking for the best college football player, obviously. But how do you define that in a team game, with so many positions?
It’s worth noting that no defensive lineman or linebacker has ever won. And the only defensive back to win was Michigan’s Charles Woodson, who beat out Peyton Manning in 1997. But Woodson also returned punts and played wide receiver.
So we’re mostly thinking about quarterbacks and running backs. (Offensive linemen might as well hibernate.)
This year we have six players to ponder: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Boston College running back Andre Williams, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and last year’s winner, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
I can go over these players and give my knee-jerk response, which usually corresponds with my rational investigation of numbers, yards, wins, etc. But before I continue, let’s hear what the Heisman Trophy Trust’s ‘‘Mission Statement’’ is in the 2012 Journal.
The trophy ‘‘recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence and integrity.’’
Hmm. We’re thinking about wild, young ‘‘Johnny Football,’’ who during the last offseason was a bit like a sailor in port after two years at sea. We’ll scratch him off because A&M is only 8-4, and he didn’t upset Alabama this year.
Then there’s Winston, great football player, but he has a sexual-assault investigation hanging over his shoulder pads. He’s out, too.
McCarron? For years he has been leading that Alabama quasi-NFL team, which still lost to Auburn last week, and his stats aren’t ridiculous. Out.
BC’s Williams? Who he? Out.
Miller, the young man running the Big Buckeye Bulldozer? He hasn’t lost a game in two years, but he missed a few games this season because of injury, and who knows how he’ll do against Michigan State’s tough defense in the Big Ten title game. Out.
So here stands NIU’s Lynch, protruding on the Illinois prairie like a meerkat standing sentinel on the Serengeti. Lynch plays in the lowly Mid-American Conference, in a small stadium, in a region dominated by Big Ten interest.
But there he stands, credentials as impeccable as he can make them. He broke his own record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback (321 yards), becoming only the fifth NCAA player to pass for 5,000 yards and run for 4,000 yards in a career.
The guy has a good arm and great field awareness, but his running ability is crazy. He spins; he weaves; he plows; he can’t be tackled. It doesn’t make sense as you watch, but it happens again and again. He has rushed for 1,755 yards and 20 TDs. He also has 22 TD passes. Oh, and did we mention his team is 12-0? Winning might be Lynch’s greatest attribute.
Maybe he’ll blow a gasket in the MAC title game Friday. Maybe he’ll fade in NIU’s bowl game.
But this guy has done all he can, and in voting dominated by regional bias, if a voter doesn’t stand up for what he recognizes in his own backyard, who will?
My ballot goes in soon. It’s not for who will be the best pro or sell the most tickets or make the best commercials.
It’s for the best — good — college player.