Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Ultimate Heisman

This month marked a significant day in getting ready for the college football season, the release of the College Football '13 video game.  This is the first year in about 15 that I won't be purchasing the annual franchise.  The reason, well, I'm broke.  But, I'd also like to think I have enough going on in my "adult" life that I don't have time to devote to sitting on my couch for hours twiddling my thumbs.

But, the release day of the college football video game will always hold a special spot in my heart.  It was a central part of pretty much every summer of my youth.

While I won't be buying the game this year, I read one aspect is that you can import former Heisman winners to your favorite team's current roster.  I thought that was pretty cool and wanted to participate in someway.  So, I decided to breakdown the question "if I had to pick ONE Heisman winner over my lifetime (1984 - beyond) to have on my team who would it be?"

The rules are simple.  I can use any justification to disqualify anyone.  This includes personal vitriol, NFL career, and/or any other side note.  This is my list and bias is absolutely allowed.  Theoretically, this player would be on MY team and like Al Davis, who only picked players that ran a sub 4.3 40 regardless of criminal history, actual production, or ability to read a menu let alone a playbook, I too have a unique set of qualities for my ideal Heisman.

Here's what I came up with.

I have 28 candidates.  I can toss 16 out the window right away.  Along with a quick explanation of why,  this is the first group that barely gets consideration.

1987 - Tim Brown - Right off the bat, I channel my inner Al Davis.  Brown is a WR at Notre Dame, therefore he has average speed, is not flashy, and not the guy who caught the halfback pass to get Rudy in the game.  Not a good resume.  This is not UPS, Brown can't do it for me.


1989 - Andre Ware - Drafted by MY Detroit Lions and was total garbage.  He does score a few points with being a decent analyst, but still, not producing for the team who gets my blood, sweat, and tears during my fall and winter Sundays.  Ware is out.

1990 - Ty Detmer - Had a great season at BYU, but he's a Detmer.  That's like picking an Osmond as your favorite entertainer.  I need my Heisman with a little more edge than the Donny and Marie of college football.  Get out of here Ty.

1991 - Desmond Howard - I went to Michigan State.  No way in hell am I letting Desmond get this honor.  Plus, he is the weak link on College Gameday (although was quite poignant on his assessment of the recent PSU scandal, kudos).  Also, he is a receiver.  I need my ultimate Heisman to have a little more control of the ball.  That doesn't bode well.  Go pose somewhere else.  (With that said, striking the Heisman pose in the biggest game of the year is a pretty brash move, I can't knock that.)

1992 - Gino Torretta - A disgrace to the "U."  Choked in a title game and did so while wearing the same jersey worn by the the 7th Floor Crew and Ray Lewis.  That's absolutely inexcusable.

1994 - Rashaan Salaam - To call his NFL career a bust would be insulting to the word BUST.  He couldn't make the Detroit Lions roster in 2002...the running backs that year that did make the team were Aveion Cason, Rafael Cooper, Richard Huntley, James Stewart, Stephen Trejo, Lamont Warren.  Point made.  Although, his name does remind me of one of my favorite lunch meats, that positive should not go unnoticed.

1996 - Danny Wuerffel - Rex Grossman went on to have a better career than WOEful.  Ouch.

1999 - Ron Dayne - No way can I let an offensive lineman be my ultimate Heisman winner.  Wait what? That fat man was a running back?  Huh. Only in Wisconsin.  Still no dice for the Round Mound of Ground.

2000 - Chris Weinke - I have an age limit....and dignity.  Absolutely not.

2001 - Eric Crouch - Made the most of what he had in college.  Didn't have much in the pros.  Pretty much the definition of any option QB to ever play at Nebraska.  But, he does look like Doug from 'The Hangover,'  so at least he's got that going for him.  Even though Doug is in about 5-percent of those movies, so then again, maybe not.

2002 - Carson Palmer - This felt like more of a lifetime achievement award for a guy who pretty much stunk compared to expectations in his first three years at USC.  Norm Chow should have gotten a piece of the award.  Oh, and Palmer beat out Brad Banks who finished 2nd.  That's right, a QB from IOWA came in 2nd (This argument will come back to bite me, see 1985).  Not a heavy year for competition.

2003 - Jason White - The man wasn't even drafted in the NFL.  But you know what other quarterbacks were picked that year, Dan Orlovsky, David Greene, and Andrew Walter.  Truly elite talent...and by elite I mean at holding clip boards.

2006 - Troy Smith - A runaway Heisman winner who had a pretty remarkable career.  But, Smith ended his stint with the Buckeyes getting absolutely HAMMERED by Florida in the title game.  I need a champion as my Heisman.  Plus, no visible tattoos?!  C'mon Troy, you went to Ohio State, I need to know that you took full advantage of your opportunities.  Although, he gets a lot of credit for beating those rodents in Ann Arbor in the "Game of the Century."

2008 - Sam Bradford - Eh.  Passing era QB who lit up the stat sheet.  But another guy who is a casualty of a loss to Florida in the National Championship game.  As Mike Singletary famously said "I need winners."

2009 - Mark Ingram - Most recognizable player on a team that's defense was probably more deserving of a Heisman than anything.  Plus, he loses points for picking 'Bama over my alma mater Michigan State.  Bias in full effect.  No ballot for you.

2011 - Robert Griffin III - Too soon to give him icon status.  Plus, Baylor didn't even make a BCS game.  I need more than that out of my ultimate Heisman.  Also, I can't pick a guy who is still rocking the same haircut as Doug E. Doug in Cool Runnings. Nice socks though.

Sadly Joey Harrington's Heisman was never awarded

With 16 out, that leaves a dozen left.  Of the remaining winners, there is a group of eight that is intriguing, but something is still missing to really entice me.

1984 - Doug Flutie - The Hail Mary is incredible.  His limited size is commendable.  But, I can't put the weight of my Heisman legend on the shoulders of a man who spent the prime of his pro career north of the border.

1986 - Vinny Testaverde - Vinny help put Miami on the map.  He was prolific and a winner.  He helped the 'U' cement their 'Swag'...a Swag that looked like this...

So for that, Vinny gets a ton of kudos.  But, he also pulled a Gino and threw five INT's in a game that would have secured the National Title for the 'Canes.  Plop.  Adios.

1993 - Charlie Ward - Ward is one of my favorite players on this list.  I loved Florida State at the time and love that they snuck around Notre Dame to play in the National Title game that year, despite a head-to-head loss to the Irish.

But, as much as I loved Chuck on the gridiron, I appreciated him more on the basketball court.  He created one of the legendary backcourts (not debatable) with him and future Pistons legend Bob Sura carrying the 'Noles to the Final Four.  But, in the NBA, he let P.J Brown Brock Lesner him in a brawl in the playoffs. That can't be overlooked.  P.J Brown?!  And, there are rumors that he may be anti-Semitic.  Certainly can't have that.  Sorry Charlie.

1995 - Eddie George - A physical runner in an era where great running backs could carry the load by themselves.  But, fumble-itis costs him and the Buckeyes a shot at the playing for the National Title.  And then post-career, Eddie got sloppy with his extra marital affairs.  I've seen how that worked out for Tiger Woods.  O-H-I-OHHH hell no you don't make the top of the list.

1998 - Ricky Williams -  Watching Ricky Williams break the NCAA Rushing record the day after Thanksgiving is, to this day, one of my favorite moments in college football.  He was far and away the most potent runner of his era.  That's probably why Mike Ditka mortgaged the Saints future to draft him.  Statistically he was a freak.  He holds the record of most 200 yard rushing games with the legend Marcus Allen and the offensive lineman Ron Dayne.  As a college runner, only a man later on this list who ran through Stillwater, OK was better, in my opinion.

But, I can't give my ultimate Heisman elite status if when he pees it's cloudier than the sky in Seattle.  I am glad to see Ricky appears to have turned his life around.  But, there was a long time when I wasn't convinced he knew he was living on planet earth.  And to be honest, he probably didn't either.  The guy is different.  Nothing wrong with that.  But, I can't put the title of ultimate Heisman in the hands of a man who often flies higher off the field than on it.

2004 - Matt Leinert - Honestly, there is a lot to like about Leinart's college career. He had a Bromance with one of the underrated boy band lead singers, Nick Lachey while at the same time pulling some serious lady talent.  Plus, he won a pair of National Titles and was never really targeted for getting extra benefits like his teammate Reggie Bush.  College was the good life for Matty.

But, like the rest of us who leave the confines of campus, the adult world hit him like a ton of bricks and blitzes.  Leinert is a garbage pro.  I imagine with the mental anguish of simply playing awful, coupled with his known love of partying, it's just a matter of time before I read that Leinart is dating and/or working for Heide Flice while auditioning for the next season of Celebrity Rehab.

Too much off field baggage.   Fight On Matt, but do so away from my team.

2005 - Reggie Bush - Vacated.  So I won't take the time to make my case for him, but will leave you with a view at one of his crowning career achievements.

You're welcome.  Heisman.

2007 - Tim Tebow -  As impressive as his college career was, including two National Titles, Tebow won the Heisman in a relatively off-year for the Gators.  He is cultural icon and I personally have no issue with him. But, I can't stand his groupies.  And he doesn't have the fun groupies like the ones that pop champagne with Rozay, Wayne, and Drake.  He has Skip Bayless.  I support Groupie Love if done appropriately.  Skip Bayless is not appropriate.

Tebow may be one of the greatest players ever in college football, but to no fault of his own, I can't put him on the next level because there isn't enough Advil or alcohol in the world for me to stomach hearing Bayless talk about him any more than he already does.  (Yes, I am assuming Bayless will read this and will use it as a top topic on First Take).

Final Four time.  Tom Izzo helped me get here.  It's what he does.  I broke the first 24 down chronologically.   These four will be ranked in descending order (No. 4 - No. 1).  The winner gets the honor of being crowned as my ultimate Heisman.  That probably isn't worth much.  The gift bag includes some skittles, a case of 312 beer, and the first season of "Saved By the Bell" on DVD.  Come to think of it, that's a pretty good Saturday night.  So away we go...

#4 - Charles Woodson -  All who know me know I bleed Green and White.  I am a diehard Michigan State fan (that's what happens when you drop that much tuition on a school).  But, there was a time in my younger, uneducated youth when I used to...dare I say it...cheer for the other school in Ann Arbor.  We all do dumb things when we are young.  I have since wised up.

But, before I made the one of my best life decisions, I had a semi-man crush on Charles Woodson.  I played cornerback in pee wee football and idolized #2.  I did the shoulder shimmy, wore the headband around my neck, and even had a shrine of him on my bedroom wall.  So, I can't deny there is a lot of respect for Chuck.

But, really, can a cornerback/kick returner be THE Heisman.  No.  He wouldn't get have the ball enough and in the age of pass happy offenses, defenses are more susceptible at getting burned.  But, C-Woodson does post an impressive resume.

#3 - Bo Jackson - Bo Knows.  Bo Knows how to be a beast.  The multi-sport phenom statistically doesn't even top some of the players behind him on this list, but think about this... In a year when he won the Heisman, he also batted .401 for Auburn's baseball team and launched 17 Home Runs and drove in 43 RBI.  He also qualified for the U.S Nationals in the 100 meter dash.

Bo averaged nearly 6.5 yards per carry in his final year with the Tigers and ran for 17 Touchdowns.  That's strong.

The real reason I put Bo so high on the list is the man was insanely marketable. And in this era of college sports being more about money than, you know that other thing - education - I want a player that can bring in TV cameras and alumni wallets.

"Bo Knows" was a genius campaign and his skill set in Tecmo Bowl is probably the most dominant sports video game character ever created.   If you picked the Raiders with Bo in Tecmo Bowl, you might as well put on a blind fold, tie one hand behind your back, and sit upside down, because that is the only way your opponent would even have a chance.

That's the type of talent I want out of my ultimate Heisman, but on the field, he still doesn't quite live up to the greatness of these next two.  Starting with...

#2 - Barry Sanders - Not having him at Number One hurts because every Sunday in the fall and winter I still wear this man's #20 Detroit Lions jersey.  Sanders could do things with his legs only Michael Jackson (the 'Off The Wall' years) could do.  And, college was no exception.

Barry was as electrifying of a running back as there has ever been.  The elders will point to O.J Simpson, but I deduct points for murder, seems logical.

Despite being Thurman "Fumble Hands" Thomas' backup early in his career at Oklahoma State, Sanders was able to emerge as his own star.  In his senior year, the man ran for 2,850 yards.  That's not a typo.  He was 150 yards from a 3,000 yard rushing season.  To put that in context, in the NFL, which is now primarily a passing league, of the top 40 quarterbacks in passing yards in 2012, 20 of them through for less than Sanders ran for in 1988.  THAT's HALF!.

During his Heisman campaign, Sanders averaged 7.6 yards per carry and scored 42 of his 44 touchdowns on the ground.  He probably single-handedly keep sod laying companies in business in the Stillwater area with the amount of grass he tore up.

The ONLY reason, Barry doesn't get the nod as the top man on my list is because during that season, the Cowboys lost two of their three games to ranked opponents, including against big time rivals Nebraska and Oklahoma.  Therefore, my favorite football player of all time has to settle for second best behind....

#1 Cam Newton - I know, I know.  I can hear the arguments against this pick already.  Cam probably broke a few rules to get to Auburn and the memory of his season is so recent it may be hard to gauge the true historical perspective of what he did, but I'll try.

Newton played one year at Auburn.  He came in, immediately stepped up, led a group of all new teammates, and got them to buy in.  The man is a natural leader.  And his leadership and dominance never faltered despite a year immersed in off-field controversy.

His mental toughness and desire to get better as a player is almost unparalleled.

In the 2010 season, Newton became just the third player in NCAA FBS history with 20-rushing and 20-passing touchdowns in a single season.  He threw for more than 2,000 yards and ran for more than 1,000. That's never been done in the history-rich SEC.

Newton rallied his team from 24-points down to beat arch-rival Alabama.  He tossed a career-best six touchdowns in the SEC title game.  And to top it all off, he torched Oregon for more than 300-total yards and two-touchdowns in the National Championship, which his team won.

He put together an individual season that is almost unheard of, from what he had to weather away from the gridiron to the epic performances he displayed when on it.

It wasn't long ago and most of us remember it, but, even a century from now, it wouldn't surprise me if historians still look back at Cam Newton's 2010 Heisman season as one of the greatest ever in college football history.

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