Last week we celebrated the release of EA Sports NCAA Football '13 and the game's new Heisman Challenge mode with a discussion about which Heisman-winner from another school we wish had most played for Texas. This week, the debate turns -- as all Heisman discussions must -- to the best players in college football who did not win the award given to.... the best players in college football. Otherwise known as the Vince Young Memorial Award.
Although I'll take VY over any player in college football, ever, I don't know that the 2005 Heisman represented the most egregious snub in the award's history, if only because Reggie Bush was undeniably electric. As dirty as he was, awarding Bush was certainly a waste, but as far as Heisman Trophy winners go, he was hardly a reach. Bush finished the '05 season having rushed for....
Oh who am I kidding? For Texas fans, 2005 was the year the Heisman Trophy died -- it was just so obvious to us, and if no one could have quite predicted VY would deliver that in the Rose Bowl, not a one of us was the least bit surprised that he dominated that game -- and Reggie Bush -- in a way that left absolutely no doubt who was the greatest college football player on the planet.
Has another Heisman runner-up so thoroughly pantsed the Heisman winner in the bowl game? Considering that Vince Young's performance against USC was arguably the greatest big-game performance in college football history, I'm going to go out on a limb and say no without bothering to look it up.
You can't convince a Texas fan that any non-winner was more deserving of the Heisman than VInce Young in '05, so let's just consider that question settled and instead indulge in a discussion that is more arrogant by an order of magnitude. Let's assume that a Texas player should win the Heisman Trophy every year....
That's right: let's adopt the position that the best player in college football is a Longhorn every single season. In reality, only Colt McCoy (in '08) has a plausible case that he should have won the award, but let's rewrite history a bit, and assume that the best UT player every season is also the best player in college football.
And there, of course, is the topic: who gets the nod from each Texas team? ALthough I'm going to be practical and narrow the universe to the Mack Brown era in the body of this post, feel free to crown the Heisman-winning Longhorn from previous regimes. As far as standards go... this is the Heisman. You can justify your vote with just about anything, and I came 'this close' to nominating Luke Poehlmann in 2010 for taking mulleted towel twirling to a who new level.
2011: My heart is screaming "Fozzy!! Fozzy Whittaker!!!" at me over and over, and had he remained healthy, I don't think there would be much question. But if we remove Fozzy from consideration for missing half the season, who would be the team's MVP? There aren't any other viable candidates on offense, that's for certain. Would you go with Emmanuel Acho or Carrington Byndom on defense? Maybe Kenny Vaccaro? Try to nominate Manny Diaz? I won't argue with anyone who'd choose someone from that defense, but I'll go with Justin Tucker, in honor of both his outstanding season, and all the other great clutch kickers during the Mack Brown era.
2010: Duh: Garrett Gilbert. The kid played absolutely masterful eleven dimensional chess all season long, somehow managing in the same season to tank sufficiently to blow up the coaching staff and send off Nebraska with one more win in Lincoln. Talk about walking a tight rope. Garrett Gilbert, we salute you.
2009: Colt McCoy got the invitation to the Heisman ceremony in New York, but mostly because it was decided that he would be before the season began, and Texas got through the schedule undefeated. Playing with an offensive line and running game that were totally falling apart, however, Colt had a tough go of it during much of his senior season, and I'd instead cast my MVP vote for the '09 season with either Earl Thomas, the best, highest impact player on a defense that carried Texas to the national title game, or Jordan Shipley, who was literally the only offensive weapon that the team could count on, and its best special teams player, to boot.
2008: Not the year before, though. That was Colt McCoy's magical year, and while he probably shouldn't have even been invited to New York in '09, a good case can be made that he should have won the award as a junior. He was absolutely brilliant -- damn near perfect, really, including one of the most unforgettable wins in Red River Shootout history.
2007: In an up-and-down, largely disappointing season for the Longhorns overall, Jamaal Charles was a quiet star. He managed over 1,600 yards, 6.3 yards a carry, and 18 touchdowns on a broken offense... With his talent, Charles could have won a Heisman Trophy on a good Texas team.
2006: Although the season didn't start or end well, in between Texas played strong football with a freshman Colt McCoy at quarterback. And the single biggest reason for his success was the breakout junior season of Limas Sweed, Horseshoe hero, who went for 800 yards and 12 touchdowns, on just 46 catches. Great kid, great season.
2005: Him. No, wait, her. No, no: that guy! How can I overlook him though? Let's face it: the Heisman Trophy was the only thing we didn't win in 2005.
2004: By the end, it was Vince of course, but I'll cast my vote for Derrick Johnson, who put together just an insanely productive senior season with 130 tackles a ridiculous 9 forced fumbles. The best part about it was that after three full seasons as a starter, Johnson had forced just two fumbles, and he just decided before his senior season to try to teach himself how to thwack the ball out with that ridiculous reach-around. And then he forced 9 fumbles doing exactly that. Brilliant.
2003: He didn't stand out in the same way that some of other Texas greats did, but Cedric Benson was as consistently productive as they come, and he put it all together as a junior in 2003, finding the end zone 21 times and rushing for nearly 1,500 yards.
2002: Because Chris Simms is ineligible, it has to be Roy Williams, who like Benson had his best season as a junior: 64 catches, 1,142 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
2001: Simms and Applewhite were all we remember about 2001, but in Mack Brown's fourth season Texas actually fielded a fearsome defense wholly worthy of a team in the national title game. An underrated front seven held opponents to less than three yards per rush, but it was the secondary that just smothered offenses, led by Quentin Jammer and Nathan Vasher, who finished with 56 tackles, 18 passes broken up, and 7 picks, while adding 590 yards on punt returns, including a touchdown. It was a brilliant season performance, from one of the most dynamic players in the Mack Brown era.
2000: Impressive as was Vasher's season in '01, I'm not sure any Longhorn can come close to touching the performance by Casey Hampton in 2000. We're talking Ndamukong Suh long before it was cool. From his position as a defensive tackle, Hampton led the Longhorns in tackles for the season, with 78, along with 18 tackles-for-loss, 22 QB Hurries., and 4 forced fumbles. Do we really have John Mackovic to thank for Big Snack, Run Ricky Run, and Teh Major? We do. We do indeed.
1999: Speaking of Major Appliewhite, there was a reason that injecting Simms into the picture was so controversial. He may have looked like an undersized goof in his pad and helmets, but the kid proved he could play all right, securing Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in '09 with a brilliant campaign, including an(other) upset of Nebraska. .
1998: Before all the snubs... there was Ricky Williams.
Your turn: which Longhorns get your Heisman votes during the Mack Brown era?
This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football '13.
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