What Makes A Heisman Winner?
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Today we ask the basic question concerning the race for college football’s top individual honor — the Heisman Trophy.
What makes a Heisman Trophy winner?
Sounds simple, but is it?
Is it simply the best player? Is in the most valuable? Is it the most exciting? Is it the one with the best public relations behind it?
Is the playing field level, meaning could a player from East Carolina have any chance against someone from Alabama?
And if you answer yes to that, the question you have to ask is where West Virginia stands when one of its players is going against an Alabama or Oklahoma player, as is the case this year for Will Grier.
The field has narrowed down to the three top quarterbacks in the land —although Clemson sophomore running back Travis Etienne has inserted his name into the discussion.
That would be Grier, Tua Tagovailoa, the Alabama quarterback, and Kyler Murray, the Oklahoma quarterback.
Tagovailoa has been the front runner from the onset of the season, a marvelously talented athlete who has produced even better than anyone could have imagined.
But would Alabama be undefeated with his backup, Jalen Hurts, playing?
One suspects it would. In truth, one might even question if Tagovailoa is the best player on a team filled with All-American and NFL prospects.
This does not take away from Tagovailoa, who took a giant step toward the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night when he and Alabama went into Baton Rouge to face the No. 3 team in the country in LSU and simply dismantled them by the score of 29-0.
Tagovailoa did not have his best, completing 25 of 42 for 295 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw his first interception of the year while also twice suffering injuries, taking a helmet to the groin and tweaking something on a 44-yard touchdown run.
But is there really any pressure for this sophomore, playing behind a defense that gave up 12 rushing yards to LSU, a team that had averaged 191?
Murray faced a challenge, too, playing at Texas Tech, a much improved team that had upset on its mind but ran into Murray, who had victory in his heart.
Murray threw interceptions on each of the Sooners’ first two possessions, but he would finish with 20 for 35 passing for 360 yards and three scores to go with the INTs, while also rushing 11 times for 100 yards and a score.
How can he win the Heisman?
Well, he has to lead Oklahoma to winning out and outduel Grier in the regular season finale, if not also the championship game, while Tagovailoa has a hiccup along the way.
But what of Grier?
Three weeks ago Grier’s bid seemed to have flamed out at Ames, Iowa, when WVU was upset and he passed for only 100 yards, but the heroics on national television against a nationally ranked Texas team on the road re-lit the flame.
Driving WVU for a late touchdown, then twice making a two-point conversion — the first wiped out because Texas just got a timeout — were Jack Armstrong kind of heroics, especially with him racing into the end zone for the winner, heading into the same corner that he ran to last year while scoring a touchdown against Texas that led to a broken hand and the end of his season.
Is Grier all a Heisman should be? Heroic? His team’s MVP? Maybe his league’s MVP? Inspirational? A solid citizen? A family man?
No matter what test you lose, he has all the bullets.
His litmus test, though, lies ahead and it’s the same as Murray’s, going head-to-head in the season’s final game and maybe the Big 12 Championship game.