NO SOPHOMORE finished in the top five in the Heisman Trophy voting before 1941, the seventh time it was awarded. Naturally, it was a Notre Dame quarterback, Angelo Bertelli, who came in second (behind senior halfback Bruce Smith, of national champion Minnesota).
After finishing sixth in 1942, Bertelli finally won in '43.
In 1944, Army sophomores Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard were second and third, respectively. Blanchard won the next year, followed by Davis in '46.
Doak Walker was third in 1947, then won it as a junior and was third again as a senior.
It wasn't until 1981 that another soph, Georgia's Herschel Walker, came close. He settled for second. The next year, he got to pose.
Sense a trend here?
It's perhaps the most celebrated fraternity in any sport. Tomorrow night in New York, another name will be added to the list. No sophomore has ever been so honored. San Diego State's Marshall Faulk was second in 1992. Florida's Rex Grossman was second in 2001. Arkansas' Darren McFadden was runner-up a year ago.
That's what Florida QB Tim Tebow is up against. And what he's trying to change. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden has said that if Tebow doesn't win it this time, he'll win it the next 2 years. Yet, as history shows, generating votes as a sophomore doesn't necessarily forecast anything. Many guys who are that good that early don't hang around for their senior years anyway. Virginia Tech's Michael Vick was third as a freshman (1999) and never came close his last two seasons. Ditto Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, your 2004 runner-up.
At one point this year, McFadden had become pretty much an afterthought. It's funny how this Heisman stuff often works. Boston College QB Matt Ryan, a Philly product, sort of became that dreaded front-runner when the Eagles were unbeaten and ranked second. Then they lost back-to-back games. Enter QB Dennis Dixon, who'd also led Oregon to No. 2. Then he went down with a knee injury. Next up. Perhaps West Virginia QB Pat White? Or not. And remember QB Andre Woodson? He became a factor when Kentucky beat LSU. Didn't last, though. So, did we leave anyone out?
McFadden got himself back into the equation by running wild against South Carolina. Then Arkansas won at LSU, and he had a lot to do with it. Never discount a closing impression.
Which means it's probably a two-man scrum, although Missouri QB Chase Daniel might have earned some support by getting his team to the Big 12 final. And probably gave some back by the way he played in that game. I'm sure Colt Brennan fans will point to the records. But he did it throwing for Hawaii. Just as Kevin Smith ran for all those yards for Central Florida. Fairly or not, that's usually the way it's seen.
The one constant through all of this has been Tebow, who helped Florida win a national title a year ago in a caddie role to Chris Leak. Everybody figured he would post some serious numbers, because of the offense Urban Meyer runs. But Tebow was ridiculous. Yes, the Gators lacked a bona fide running back for most of the season. And they did lose three times, which is enough to doom most Heisman hopefuls. Still, he did things with both his arm and legs that have never been done. Against mostly stiff competition. Tough to pass over, even if McFadden will be a top pick in the next NFL draft.
McFadden yesterday won of the Walter Camp player of the year award and Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back, while Tebow won the Maxwell Club's player award and the Davey O'Brien Award as the top QB.
It's not supposed to be about the future. Which is why Jason White won, and Eli Manning didn't. Or was that Chris Weinke over LaDainian Tomlinson? In recent years, it's come down to who had the biggest season for the sexiest team. There is no exact formula. It could be most outstanding, or most valuable. Sometimes, that could be one and the same. Still, this is only the second time in 8 years that your winner will not be playing for a national title.
I don't have a vote. If I did, I'd go with Tebow, by a hair over McFadden. But if you flip-flopped that, I wouldn't have a major problem. Hey, if Dixon hadn't gone down when he did, there's every chance he'd be the winner and his Ducks would be playing for a ring. But it's not about what-ifs. It's a numbers game. In my estimation, Tebow's trumped the rest. They were, well, historic.
Speaking of which, next year he can set his sights on Archie Griffin, the only guy to win it twice. *
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