Troy Smith Wins Heisman in a Landslide
Posted Dec 9, 2006

Troy Smith won the Heisman, Darren McFadden was second, Brady Quinn third in one of the biggest landslides ever. It might not have been an exciting Heisman race, but Smith has proven worthy every step of the way.

By Pete Fiutak  

They can't all be classic races. 

The 2006 Heisman chase held about as much intrigue as an episode of Two And A Half Men, and generated enough buzz to elicit a great big national yawn with Troy Smith blowing away the field from the moment Ohio State beat Texas 24-7 on September 9th.

Heisman Trophy Tally
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Troy Smith 801 62 13 2540
McFadden 45 298 147 878
B. Quinn 13 276 191 782
Slaton 6 51 94 214
Hart 5 58 79 210
On the Heisman:
I think it would be a tremendous honor and it would be a tremendous reflection of the team I play for, the coaches I play for and the program I represent. If I get a chance to hoist that trophy and bring it back to The Ohio State University, it'll be great for everyone involved with this program.

On problems recent Heisman winners have had in the national title game:
I don't buy into superstitions or buy into previous things that happened to guys that aren't me. I can't talk about the success of a Heisman winner because I'm not one yet. There's always a chance I might not win it. I just know we'll be ready for the national championship game.

On overcoming being originally labeled a running QB:
I don't take the field trying to prove anything to anyone. I just try to play within our system. I just try to prove to my teammates, those 10 other guys, that I belong with them and I'm worthy of wearing the scarlet and gray. It really makes no difference to me what people say about me.

On whether he's spoken with former Buckeye Heisman winners, Eddie George and Archie Griffin:
Yeah, we talk, but we never talk about the Heisman. It's always about the team. They say to worry about the team and everything else will take care of itself. I've bought into that because that's what football is all about.

On how far he's come to get to this point:
I try to live in today. I don't focus on the past. I'm enjoying it while it lasts because it's not going to be the same way next year. That's the way I approach things. I'm very lucky and very blessed to be here and I'm going to live it up while I can. If you try to harp on the past, you can't put your emotions in the present.

On where he's grown the most in his senior year:
My leadership skills and my ability to have an impact on every teammate in that locker room. You have to know everybody. It's hard, but anything worth achieving is never easy. It's worth putting in the time if you have the love of each of your teammates. Without every single player on this team, we wouldn't be where we are today.

There have been more awe-inspiring Heisman winners, better overall fields of candidates and more impressive statistical seasons, but it's not Smith's fault he won in a landslide. It's not his fault that Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn lost his two big games of the year (Michigan and USC) and was never really in the race past mid-September. It's not his fault Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson broke his collarbone, Arkansas RB Darren McFadden didn't come on in the race until late, or that no one appeared to pay attention to Michigan RB Mike Hart, Hawaii QB Colt Brennan or BYU QB John Beck.

Smith doesn't have to apologize for anything after being, far and away, "the most outstanding college football player in the Untied States for 2006.".

Not only was Smith the most deserving Heisman winner this year, there's not even a reasonable argument for anyone else in the most obvious vote since Florida State QB Charlie Ward got 740 of the 790 first place in 1993 beating out Tennessee QB Heath Shuler and Alabama do-it-all back David Palmer.

So strong with Smith's year, and so weak was the field, that Quinn, McFadden, and others didn't even deserve mention. Smith took the nation's number one team wire-to-wire throwing 30 touchdown passes, five interceptions and ran for 233 yards and a touchdown. While those numbers were a walk in the park for Brennan, Smith's leadership and steady hand guided a team that had to replace almost all the defensive starters and had to deal with being the target game for everyone on the schedule.

Not only did Smith and the Buckeyes go into Texas and beat the defending national champion in the big spotlight game of the early season, they won with ruthless efficiency making the game boring after the first half with Smith making play after play completing 16 of 26 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. A few weeks later in a hornet's nest at Iowa, Smith threw four touchdown passes. Of course, his signature touch was the Michigan win throwing for 316 yards and four touchdowns against one of the nation's top defenses. In other words, under more pressure than any player in America, he answered every challenge.

Of course, the Heisman is supposed to be about the season and not the career, but his winning cements one of the more intriguing college football rags-to-riches stories.

Considered a bit of an afterthought with everyone's sure-thing All-America high school prospect Justin Zwick expected to be the new star, Smith saw mop-up duty throughout his sophomore season before taking over late. He burst onto the national scene with a 241-yard, two touchdown, 145-yard rushing, one touchdown day in a stunning win over Michigan, but it appeared his era was over before it even began.

Known as a bit of a trouble maker before coming to Ohio State after being kicked off the basketball team at one high school and having all sorts of problems at another, he was still recruited by Jim Tressel to play quarterback, even though everyone else wanted him to be a defensive back or wide receiver. Once at Columbus, he got in trouble for getting into a fight, and most famously, was nailed for taking $500 from a booster which kept him out of the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State and the 2005 season opener against Miami University. With the nightmare of the Maurice Clarett saga still unfolding, it appeared Smith was destined to be another Buckeye star who wouldn't reach his immense promise and limitless potential, but then things turned around as he underwent one of the more dramatic transformations in recent college football history.

Instead of becoming another Clarett, Smith began to embrace the role as a team leader and the face of the team. He went from being the guy people had to make excuses for off the field, to a mega-watt playmaker who was engaging, entertaining, thoughtful, and really, really good.

Smith only completed five of 11 passes for 78 yards coming off the bench the in the 2005 classic showdown against Vince Young and Texas, but he threw a touchdown pass and ran well enough to get everyone wondering whether or not the Buckeyes would've won had he played the entire game. He went on to lead Ohio State to the Fiesta Bowl and a dominant win over Notre Dame while earning a reputation for being a clutch performer along the way. It didn't hurt to beat Michigan for a second year in a row in a last-minute thriller to set the tone for 2006. 

While most Heisman candidates dismiss the hype and the talk with faux shyness or by deflecting the attention on to the team, Smith embraced the role realizing early on that if he's a top Heisman star, that would likely mean the team was winning like he wanted it to.

I'd rather be the guy from the beginning," Smith said early this year about his role as a Heisman favorite. "That lets everyone know nationally right away about your skills. Coming on late and coming on strong would be cool, but that probably means you weren't doing enough in the beginning."

He had fun with the spotlight, seemed to enjoy the attention, and thrived off being what Clarett could've been: an Ohio State god spoken about in the same breath with legends like Woody and Archie.

Now he'll go into history as a Heisman winner and for beating Michigan three times. Winning the top individual prize in all of sports might have seemed easy; now the hard part begins. If Ohio State beats Florida, and Smith finishes his career 27-2 as a starter, he'll have to be thrown into the mix along with Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Danny Wuerffel and Tommie Frazier in the Greatest College Quarterback of All-Time argument. To be there, he needs a national title.

Until January 8th, being the best player in America, and more importantly, a symbol for how someone can turn things around in the biggest way possible, is good enough.