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Stealing Heroes: Whose Heisman Winner Do You Covet Most?

If it's mid-July, it's time for my now annual nostalgia for those glorious years known as college. Getting to "learn cool stuff" as your full-time job again would be great, and letting loose with friends and beautiful co-eds never gets old, but truth be told, the one and only time I'm nostalgic for college is in mid-July, when the latest edition of EA Sports NCAA Football series is released. Because while you have another kind of full-time job after college, and still have an active (if different) social life, the one thing that many of us never get back is that sweet, precious time, which is all you have in college.

And for many 18-22 year old guys, free time means video games. Lots and lots of video games. And among the best -- and a no-brainer purchase on the day it was released each year -- was the EA Sports NCAA Football series. And I'm sure it still is, provided you have time for video games. I do not (it's equal parts hilarious and sad how much I do not), but once more, I'm wishing I did, as EA Sports NCAA Football '13 has hit store shelves at midnight last night.

As devotees of the game know, the series unveils a new big feature into game play each year, and I think they came up with a great one for this year's edition: Heisman Challenge. The idea is super-simple, and yet it manages to be very rich, getting right to the core of college football fandom: what if you could import any Heisman Trophy-winning player onto your favorite team?

And what do you know: just like that, for the first time ever the entire Longhorns fan base is glad that Vince Young was robbed of the 2005 Heisman. Can you imagine him doing the pump-and-go for 80 yards... wearing crimson and cream? How you'd feel seeing Bob Stoops throw his headphones at the Cotton Bowl -- not into the ground because Vince Young just scored for Texas, but into the air, because VY just won the Red River Shootout for OU? It's a truly horrible thought, I know, and I absolutely sympathize with Georgia fans who must be vomiting all over their computers seeing Herschel Walker pounding it into the end zone decked out in Auburn gear.

Texas fans can be thankful not to have been so violated, but that doesn't mean we can't make someone else's skin crawl, by engaging the topic of the hour: which Heisman winner from another school do you most wish had played for Texas?

I suppose the most irritating thing we could do as Texas fans would be to decline an answer -- "We don't need any of them" -- but while I'm always up for lighting the fuse of a stick of ARROGANT WHORNS dynamite, this is a great question to ponder, and I'm perfectly comfortable making one fan base weep imagining their beloved hero wearing burnt orange and playing for the Evil Empire.

I'll admit, when I first considered the question, my first reaction was -- to the surprise of no one who's read this blogover the last four years -- it had to be Robert Griffin III. And on several levels, it still is, and as far as I can tell will always be. That guy just played the quarterback position as beautifully as you can.

After reflecting on it a bit, however, the same reasons that make RGIII so amazing are also what eventually led me to embrace a different Heisman winner to steal for our own: Barry David Sanders.

To be sure, watching Robert Griffin III dominate a game from the quarterback position is a truly awesome thing to behold. We'll see how he does as a pro, but a good argument can be made that he is the Platonic Ideal of an collegiate QB. Seriously: he's kind of got it all, and kind of perfect. It's not a "let Vince be Vince" kind of dominance, but that of the 'perfect quarterback' you imagine in your head.

None of that could possibly be a strike against RGIII, of course, but it doesn't quite carry as much weight as it otherwise would for the question at hand. Because while I spent the better part of four years alternating between drooling and crying as I watched Griffin play for Baylor instead of Texas, the decision by the UT staff not to offer RGIII and pursue Garrett Gilbert exclusively set in motion a much-needed program reset. Okay, that's not really the reason, but I had to point it out. We did get something from RGIII besides beatdowns, after all.

No, what I'm really getting at is that I'm interpreting this question as a singular opportunity to get to see one player every week as one of your own, and while RGIII would be an amazing choice in that regard -- and certainly would have been great to the program in the standings -- where Griffin represented the perfection of what is possible, Barry Sanders...

...Sanders defied impossible, much in the same way as Vincent Paul Young, Jr. so memorably did at Texas.

I mean, seriously: watch those highlights. And try to refrain from watching them over and over the rest of the day today. Absolutely ridiculous -- even a little bit messy, in the way surrealism always kind of is.

In pumping up the potential I saw in Fozzy Whittaker, I used to describe him as having great hips that allowed him to look like he was being controlled by a joystick. The funny thing is: that's true! For a human, it's absolutely true. But next to Barry Sanders... well, no. I mean, Barry Sanders is a video game.

I always rooted for Sanders and the Lions in the NFL, as he'd try like no one else could to defeat an entire team individually. He was never on any great teams, but he was uniquely able to run up, down, around, and through a dizzying maze of defenders to get there on his own. And I'd bet that it was the exact same for 95% of football fans: you watched when the Lions played, just to see what Barry Sanders might do -- and afraid of not seeing a play or game that you'd forever regret missing.

Perhaps I might feel differently had Vince Young not done his thing at Texas, but having experienced the impossible, I'd choose it again. Even over Robert Griffin III.

Who gets your vote? The perfect RGIII? The inimitable Barry Sanders? Or another Heisman winner?


This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football '13.