2007 Heisman: What do they mean by "best player," anyway?

First, congratulations, Tim Tebow. You had a great year.

Now, a little context. The Heisman Trophy is allegedly awarded each year to the nation’s “most outstanding college football player.”

  • The Heisman has been awarded 73 times.
  • 27 of the recipients have been quarterbacks.
  • 41 times the winner was a running back.
  • On four occasions the winner was an end/receiver.
  • Only once has the winner been a primarily defensive player – Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997. And it’s unlikely he’s have won if it weren’t for the fact that he was an impact kick returner who also played some on the offensive side of the ball.
  • To put this point a little differently, no player has ever won the award unless he played an offensive skill position.
  • 36 winners – almost half – hail from just 13 rich programs: Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, Southern Cal and Wisconsin.

So, a purely defensive player has never won the award. No defensive lineman has ever been the best player in college football. No linebackers. Or safeties. Woodson proved that a cornerback can win if he’s a special teams threat who also plays offense, so that’s something, I guess.

On the other side of the ball, it’s remarkable that no offensive lineman has ever been chosen as the best player in college football, especially given how critically important those jobs are and how very difficult they are.

This means one of two things. Either QBs, running backs and receivers are simply hands-down better than all other football-playing athletes, always. Or the Heisman system is a stupid joke.

If it’s going to continue doing business as it has been since its founding, I propose that the Downtown Athletic Club rewrite its mission statement to better reflect the reality of the award. How about something like this: “Each year the Heisman Trophy is awarded to the most highly publicized quarterback, running back or receiver who plays for a BCS conference school with a big enough publicity budget to hype him to the forefront of public awareness.”

That may not be quite right, but it’s a damned sight closer than what they’re saying at present.

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