I’m not a Heisman Trophy voter but, like you, I have a Heisman opinion.
Lamar Jackson, the pride of Boynton Beach High School, is deserving of college football’s ultimate individual award, which will be awarded on Saturday night in New York City. That’s the consensus, of course, and has been for a while, but it will be satisfying to end whatever suspense remains for a couple of reasons.
First, no Palm Beach County high school athlete has ever won the award. Quarterback Brad Banks of Glades Central came the closest, taking runner-up honors in 2002. For a gauge on how long ago that was, the guy who beat Banks out, Carson Palmer of USC, leads the Arizona Cardinals against the Miami Dolphins this Sunday in what will be his 171st NFL start.
The second reason why it will be good to hear Jackson’s name called and officially get this all over with is the late slump that hit his Louisville Cardinals at the end of the regular season. Losses to Houston and Kentucky dropped Louisville to 9-3 and Jackson wasn’t at his best in either game, combining for three touchdown passes and three interceptions;
That got a debate started about whether DeShaun Watson should get the Heisman instead. After all, his Clemson Tigers are in the College Football Playoff semifinals and Watson beat Jackson in October’s head-to-head meeting. After all, aren’t Heisman winners supposed to contribute to great seasons and play for great teams?
The answer to that is Tim Tebow.
In 2007 Tebow won the Heisman but it wasn’t on one of his two national championship teams at Florida. The Gators lost four times that season and didn’t reach the SEC Championship game. Tebow was so dominant, however, with 32 touchdowns passing and 23 touchdowns rushing that he could not be denied.
Compare these numbers from Tebow in 2007 and Jackson in 2016. The same pattern stands.
Tebow scored 55 touchdowns, passing and rushing. Jackson’s total is 51.
Tebow rushed the ball 114 times more than Florida’s No. 2 ballcarrier. Jackson has 102 more rushes than the No. 2 guy at Louisville.
Tebow threw six interceptions. Jackson’s thrown nine.
Tebow’s team finished 9-4 with a loss to Michigan in Orlando’s Capital One Bowl. Jackson and Louisville are 9-3 with a game upcoming against LSU in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, the same game with a different name.
Tebow’s 2007 Gators finished 13th in the final AP poll. Louisville finished 13th in the College Football Playoff rankings and stands 15th in the AP poll with a game to play.
Admittedly, it would be rare for a team completely out of the national championship discussion to win the Heisman. Going back to 2000, five Heisman winners played for unbeaten national title teams and seven more played for teams that reached but lost the national title game.
There always will be exceptions, though, and Jackson should be one of them.
Robert Griffin III, for instance, won the 2011 Heisman with a 10-3 Baylor team that finished tied for third in the Big 12 and played in the Alamo Bowl. The following year Johnny Manziel took the trophy with a two-loss Texas A&M team that dropped its season opener against Florida and wound up tied for second in the SEC West.
Lamar Jackson is the most exciting player in college football today. Give him the trophy, with one last comparison to that other guy.
Tebow scored five touchdowns (three passing and two rushing) in a rout of Florida State in 2007. Jackson also got five when Louisville beat FSU 63-20 in September, the high-profile game that put him in the Heisman driver’s seat and has probably kept him there ever since.