It's not exactly Hillary or Obama
getting into the White House, but a barrier has been broken with an
underclassman finally winning the Heisman Trophy.
Long one of the more bizarre biases in sports, freshmen and
sophomores hadn't needed to apply for the big prize, despite a few
coming close in recent years, and now Tebow has broken few the
barrier despite being on a three-loss team that didn't even play for
its conference championship.
Many will speculate that Tebow was able to get the big prize only on
stats in a numbers filled Heisman race, and many others will
speculate that he simply rose to the top after everyone else
withered away. Oregon's Dennis Dixon, who all but had the award won,
bowed out late in the year with a knee injury. Missouri's Chase
Daniel, Kansas' Todd Reesing, and West Virginia's Pat White were all
deep in the hunt well into November, and all excused themselves
after crushing late losses. Darren McFadden played on an Arkansas
team that wasn't anywhere near the SEC West title, Hawaii's Colt
Brennan didn't play a great schedule, and the two other viable
candidates, or should've been viable candidates, UCF RB Kevin Smith
and Tulane RB Matt Forte, were unknowns throughout the year. Even
so, that Tebow was simply the only real choice out of a flawed lot
couldn't be further from the truth.
In McFadden, the Heisman race had one of the all-time great SEC
runners who did everything possible to carry his team and change up
the season with jaw-dropping showstoppers against South Carolina and
LSU. In Daniel, Reesing and White, there were three tremendous
leaders and playmakers who took their teams to the brink of playing
for the national title. And then there were the non-BCSers, who,
other than Brennan, came up with historic seasons that no one paid
There was Forte, who bulled his way to a 2,000-yard season. There
was Smith, who ran for 2,448 yards, 723 more than McFadden, with 29
touchdowns 14 more than McFadden, and carried his team to a
Conference USA title, but couldn't even become a finalist. And then
there was Brennan, who in hindsight should've won the 2006 Heisman
if the voting was done after the bowl games, with another monstrous
statistical season with two of the greatest big-game (at least for
Hawaii getting to the BCS) performances to beat Boise State and
Washington to get his team to the Sugar Bowl. Tebow had one of the
great seasons in the history of college football in a season of some
of the greatest statistical seasons in the history of college
football, and he rose above them all.
But Tebow is more than just numbers, carrying a rebuilding Gator
team gutted by defections to the NFL on defense, and lacking enough
playmakers on offense. Top receiver Andre Caldwell was hurt for a
stretch, but Tebow remained efficient and effective throwing the
ball. Do-it-all playmaker Percy Harvin was one of the nation's most
dynamic weapons, but he wasn't a 25 touch option. Tebow had to
shoulder the load alone for long stretches, even though that
shoulder was injured, and he still produced despite being the focus
of everyone's defensive gameplan and the target of opposing fans,
including some unfortunate incidents involving threatening test
messages and voice mails before the LSU game.
But still, the college football world seemed reluctant to embrace
the idea of Tebow as a possible college football legend, the status
automatically bestowed upon a Heisman winner, partly because the
stats weren't given the proper credit, and partly because he wasn't
flashy like McFadden.
Consistency is rarely rewarded, but in this case, it was, as Tebow
ran and threw for a score in every game finishing with 29 touchdown
passes and 22 touchdowns, an SEC record, becoming the first player
in college football history to run and throw for 20 scores.
"But most of his touchdowns were close to the goal line," the
Yeah, but who got the offense there in the first place? Quick, name
Florida's top rushing running back this year. No, Harvin sort of
doesn't count. It was Kestahn Moore, who's workload diminished over
the course of the season.
Remember, Tebow set an SEC rushing touchdown record. Think about the
greatest names in the history of the great conference, and they
couldn't do what Tebow did, even though most were fed the ball more
of their share of times every time they were around the goal line.
Herschel Walker, Emmitt Smith, Shaun Alexander, Bo Jackson, Rudi
Johnson, Carnell Williams, Garrison Hearst, Jamal Lewis, and on and
on and on. None of them were able to do it. And no, it's not like
Tebow got a slew of meaningless late game garbage scores to pile on
the statistics. Sure, there were a couple, but for the most part,
the scores were clean; they helped put games away.
Oh yeah, and Tebow could also throw the ball.
Second in the nation in passing efficiency, and first for a little
while, Tebow threw for 3,132 yards and 29 scores with six
interceptions, and he never threw more than one interception in a
game. He did all this with a target and a bull's-eye on his back
each and every week. He is considered the chosen one. He's Superman.
He was a key cog on a national champion, and then the offense became
his. All his.
Even after all the numbers, and considering they came in the SEC
when the defending national champions got the best shot from
everyone, he still had more than his share of skeptics.
Sure, he didn't lead Florida to a title of any kind this with three
losses on the résumé including key games against LSU and Georgia,
but it wasn't like he was awful in those two. It wasn't his fault
the run defense went bye-bye against LSU and the entire D got ripped
up by Georgia.
Now it'll be interesting to see, as the years go on, if the
statistics hold up, or if they were the beginning of the dawn of the
super-spread quarterback. Former Utah star Alex Smith showed a bit
how amazing a talented all-around quarterback could be in the Urban
Meyer attack, and then Tebow took things to another level.
Considered to be the perfect player to fit Meyer system well before
he ever signed on at Florida, this has been the perfect marriage of
the right player with the right coach at the right time.
Now high schools have been able to use the spread offense for a few
years and can create the type of do-it-all-player like Tebow who can
put up the mega-numbers. So while this might have been a watershed
moment for the Heisman with a sophomore winning, it could also be a
time looked back on 15 years from now like the college football
world views the Andre Ware era, when the run-n-shoot passer won the
1989 Heisman thanks to gaudy numbers created in a system. Will we
see a whole slew of Tim Tebows over the next several years, or is
Tebow really an all-timer of a star who'd shine no matter what
offense he'd be put in?
For now, Florida's third Heisman winner (Steve Spurrier and Danny
Wuerffel being the other two) is more than worthy based on what he
did this season, no matter what happens in the future. He had the
best season of any player in college football from start to finish,
and he was properly rewarded.