Monday, September 3, 2012

2009 Heisman Trophy

I wrote this after the Heisman Presentation in 2009 where Alabama Running Back Mark Ingram won the Heisman, in the closest race in the history of the award, over Stanford Running Back Toby Gerhart. I view this as one of my best pieces of writing, and if anyone wants to agree or disagree, I'd like to hear the feed back. 

On the night of Saturday, December 12, 2009 I stood transfixed in front of my kitchen television at six o’clock. (I am in the mountain time zone, so this is why my times are different than all of you out east.) Why was I transfixed in front of my TV? Was it one of the old Christmas specials, like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town? Well, I had been watching those old specials, but this time was not a time for a Christmas special. This was the time that I had been waiting for all fall. I was watching the 2009 Heisman Trophy Presentation.

I stood in a trance like mode in front of my TV for the whole hour watching Brad Nessler introduce the finalists, Ndamukong Suh the All-American defensive tackle from the University of Nebraska who won four other awards on Thursday night. Toby Gerhart, who leads the nation in rushing yards, 1736 yards, and touchdowns, 26 from Stanford University. Mark Ingram, the All-American running back from the University of Alabama who ran for 1542 yards and scored 18 touchdowns, and led the Crimson Tide to a South Eastern Conference championship over the Florida Gators (that’s no easy feat, but Ingram sure made it seem that way). Colt McCoy the senior quarterback from the University of Texas who is the NCAA all-time wins leader with 45, threw for 3512 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions and saved Texas (or maybe just got lucky) when he threw the ball out of bounds with one second left on the clock in the Big XII championship game against Nebraska. The Longhorns won the game and McCoy now faces Mark Ingram and the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game presented by Citi on January 7, 2009 in Pasadena, California, where four years ago, Vince Young led the Longhorns to an upset over the USC Trojans for the BCS National Title. Last, but not least, is Tim Tebow, who really needs no introduction. Everyone knows Tebow’s story. Heisman trophy winner, winner of two national championships, the SEC all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, and probably America’s favorite player for his passionate play and leadership of his team on and off the field.

After the introductions, I watched and listened as the players, and some coaches (Jim Harbaugh and Bo Pelini) were interviewed by Kirk Herbstreit in the back of the Nokia Theater in New York. But after almost an hour of watching all this, it was finally time. Time to hear the winner of the 75th Heisman Trophy.

I have to say, I was pulling for Stanford’s Toby Gerhart. Being a two-sport athlete myself, and I just happen to be in those same two sports (football and baseball), and taking a full load of classes, I felt as if I connected with him a little bit. Ever since I saw Toby beat up on USC on November 14, (Stanford won 55-21, Toby had 178 yards and three touchdowns) I knew he would be a Heisman finalist and I was pulling for him from there. My pull for Toby got stronger after I saw him destroy my Notre Dame Fighting Irish (that’s right I’m an Irish fan, and damn proud to call Brian Kelly our new head coach.) and light up the Irish defense for 205 yards and four touchdowns, one of them passing. After that game I thought Toby had established a legitimate case for winning the Heisman Trophy.

So the time has come at last. I listen to Brad Nessler as he rattles of the names of the past Heisman winners that are at the Nokia Theater in New York on this Saturday. After he finished by adding Tim Tebow to the 2000s group of winners, I listened to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Heisman Trophy, as he said, “And in the closest race ever…” I was praying in my head, “Toby, Toby, Toby!” But then I heard, “The 2009 Heisman Trophy is awarded to Mark Ingram, University of Alabama.” I shouted, “Damn It!” I really wanted to Toby to win, but in the end, if it could have gone to anyone else, it should have been Ingram.

Now don’t get me wrong. Suh had an amazing year, especially in the Big XII Championship game. He was third in the nation in sacks and he led Nebraska in tackles, which is not a category usually led by a d-lineman. McCoy too had a great year, but when his chance came to shine and take the trophy, he really didn’t perform and let Suh and the Nebraska defense get to him. (Good Luck with Alabama’s defense Colt, it’s even better.) Then there’s Tebow. Now c’mon, everyone loves Tim Tebow, but we all knew he wasn’t going to win this year. Out of his three years as a starter, this was the one year that he never really outshone anyone on the field. So, no matter how much I love Tim as a player in the game of college football, this just wasn’t his year. When it came down to the end, it was really between two players, the best two running backs in the nation, Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart.

Stanford fans could say that Gerhart didn’t win because the people voting in regions outside the west never saw Toby play and therefore would vote for Ingram because he plays out east. But who are they to say that? It can’t be proven, even though the only region that Gerhart won was the west, he only finished five first-place votes behind Ingram. Five. That’s all it takes, though, folks. Stanford fans could also cite the fact that Toby came up with four 200-yard games in the last five games, while Ingram was powerless in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. But here’s why Mark Ingram won the trophy.

Mark Ingram won because when the bright lights shine, the whole game was on his shoulders. Yes, Mark faltered once, against Auburn in the Iron Bowl when he only had 30 yards. But Alabama had already locked a place in the SEC title game. That game was just to keep the perfect season going, and since Ingram was ineffective against the Tigers, Alabama found another way to win, their passing game. They used that and won the Iron Bowl. But back to Ingram. As I said, when the bright lights shine, they shine on Mark Ingram. In the SEC Championship, as I was watching on TV, all I heard was “Mark Ingram. Another huge run by Ingram! Another catch by Ingram! And Touchdown Alabama! Mark Ingram scores again!” So on and so forth throughout the game. So when it came down to it, Mark Ingram took Alabama on his back and won games for them.

Did the Heisman Trophy go to the right person? You tell me. Both were deserving, but I guess that’s why it was the closest race ever in Heisman trophy history. Congratulations, Mark Ingram on winning Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy in the storied history of the program. You had a great season.

Let’s hope the 2010 Heisman race is as good as this one.

(Note: Auburn University QB Cam Newton went on to win the 2010 Heisman, in a race that wasn't nearly as close as 2009, over Stanford QB Andrew Luck [who I saw play in South Bend, Indiana against Notre Dame, and Damn, is Luck good], Oregon RB LaMichael James, and Boise State QB Kellen Moore. All but Newton will be back for the 2011 College Football Season. In 2011 Heisman went to Robert Griffin III from Baylor over Luck, DB Tyrann Mathieu of LSU, RB Trent Richardson of Alabama, and RB Montee Ball of Wisconsin)

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