Rules for Winning the Heisman

The Heisman Trophy is one of the most recognizable and respected awards in all of sports. Who here can say they haven’t busted out the “Heisman pose” after scoring the winning touchdown in the annual Thanksgiving flag football game after you just juked-out Aunt Mary running down the sideline? Oh, that’s just me? No matter, just understand that the mystique of the Heisman Trophy looms large, and the yearly race among the contenders is often as publicized as the journey to win a team national championship.

It would be nice to think that the race for the Heisman is fair and that every player has an equal chance to win the award. This isn’t a land of fairy-tails and rainbows, though, and guys like Colt Brennan never actually have a chance to take the trophy home. The reason being is that there are a few unwritten rules the Heisman voters use to determine who earned the right to enter the prestigious fraternity of Heisman recipients. I am here today to talk about some of these rules and, hopefully, help you understand why you shouldn’t hold your breathe when rooting for players like Manti Te’o to bring home the bronze.

Nobody Wants to Hear About Your Defense
There is a reason Charles Woodson is the only primarily defensive player to take home the Heisman. The majority of people who watch and analyze college football enjoy watching offense. They want to see long touchdown catches and bruising goal-line runs. Fans are not as interested in the techniques of a shutdown corner or the run-stopping ability of an interior defensive lineman. This essentially limits Heisman candidates to offensive skill-players, with precedent given to Quarterbacks and Running Backs.

Save the Young-ins For Next Year
Historically, being a junior or senior was essentially a requirement to win a Heisman. In recent years, players like Sam Bradford, Johnny Manziel, and Tim Tebow have shown that spectacular play can breakthrough against this thinking. However, all things being equal, the edge seemingly will always be given to the veteran.

Repeat? Good Luck
There has only been one two-time Heisman Trophy winner and it is very unlikely there will ever be another one. The reason for this is once you win the Heisman once, you are no longer compared to your competition. The Heisman voters compare you to your previous performance, so you must not only be the best college football player in the country, you have to do it in a more spectacular fashion than the performance you put forth the previous year. In addition to this, more and more college players are leaving after three years, limiting there on-field production to only two or three years where only perfection will be acceptable.

The Other Guys
Yes, your team matters. You can put up the best numbers in the nation, but, if you are on a 6-6 Toledo team playing Akron and Bowling Green every week, you aren’t going to get the necessary respect from the Heisman voters. Your team has to be at least in the conversation for the national title and at the very least be a part of a traditional college football power that will bring in high TV ratings when you put up those numbers (Yes, TV ratings matter. Whenever money is at stake, that factor will be taken into account.)

East Coast, Best Coast
Last, but not least, we have the rule that explains how in the world Christian McCaffrey did not win the Heisman Trophy last season. Simply put, some teams just play too late at night. It’s not their fault, but players on the West Coast experience a natural disadvantage because of the timezone they play in. As great as McCaffrey was, there were simply people who did not realize how good he was playing because they never got a chance to see him on national television (including a few voters.) The East Coast bias is real, so if you are a player on the West Coast, you better hope for some 1 o’clock games or expect to miss out on bringing that trophy back from New York.