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.
|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
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
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.