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Thoughts on the Heisman

{/literal}{include file="blk:carlsonblog_header"}{literal} asked me to answer a few questions for a Heisman Trophy voter round table that will be posted on that website later this week.

You can check out all the answers from around the country there, but because the questions were so good and so thought-provoking, I thought I’d share what I submitted here.

Who did you vote for and why?

Iwent with Sam Bradford. This might have been the most difficult decision I’ve made since I started voting in 1999. There were really compelling arguments for all of three of the players who ended up on my ballot — monster numbers, vital to the success of their teams, etc. – but in the end, I chose Bradford because he never had a bad game. You can’t say that about the others. Even in OU’s loss to Texas, Bradford threw five touchdown passes. Heck, he never even had a bad half. That won me over.

Who were your second and third choices?

Ivoted Colt McCoy second and Tim Tebow third. Both had great, great seasons, but I just couldn’t ignore Bradford’s consistent excellence.

How seriously do you take your Heisman vote?  Do you have a method to making your choice?  What do you look for in a candidate?

I don’t know how other voters go about making their picks, so I don’t know if I’d be considered serious or not. But I don’t just wing it. I look at cumulative stats, game-by-game stats, how players did in big games, whether their stats got padded against bad teams. I try to get inside the numbers as much as possible. For me, I’m looking for someone who is a great player, who is vital to their team’s success and who played big in the big games.

How much are you influenced by the opinion of coaches, players, other media, scouts, etc., when it comes to making your choice?

Itry not to be swayed in the end. I was one of the seven people in the country who voted for Vince Young instead of the USC stars a few years back — OK, maybe there were a few more than seven of us — but I do think I do a pretty good job of making an independent decision. But I also think there’s something to be said for looking at what the media and coaches do in all-conference voting and the like. These are the folks who see these players all the time, and their opinions are valuable. If a Heisman candidate isn’t first-team all-conference, for example, that is something at least worth considering.

In your opinion, what’s the most effective promotion method a school can undertake on behalf of its player?

You know, I’ve never really paid that much attention to the school promotions. I love the fun ones, well, just because they’re fun. But most of the time, those things don’t sway me much. The ones that are most helpful, though, are to-the-point and meaningful. I’m looking for interesting comparisons between candidates, that sort of thing.

Throw out all the records and team logos–what one player do you wish had really gotten serious consideration this season and why?

Great question. A guy who I think should be the leading vote getter among running backs but won’t be is Kendall Hunter. It was a travesty that the Oklahoma State tailback wasn’t a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. His per-carry average was sick, and he came to play in big games. He had big numbers against Missouri, Texas and Texas Tech, and even though he wasn’t as good against Oklahoma, he was still effective. Shonn Greene or Javon Ringer will be the leading vote getters among running backs, but Hunter is a running back who should’ve gotten more love.

Say you had two players who had equal stats, played on teams with equal records and were virtually indistinguishable in everything you consider important.  Except one was a senior and the other, a sophomore.  Would you be more inclined to choose the senior? 

I don’t get wrapped up in the class of the player. Or I try not to anyway. After Adrian Peterson finished second in the Heisman as a freshman, everybody said he’d be back two or three more times and win a Heisman or two. He never made it back to New York because of injury. Two candidates would have to be indistinguishable — actually, not virtually — for me to use their class as the tiebreaker.

What do you think about the idea of awarding the Heisman after the bowl games?

So much of the Heisman is tradition. The award has always been given after the regular season and based on those games. I think to change that now would mess with the tradition and the history.

What would you change about the Heisman process if you could?

The truth is, we don’t really know for sure who the best player in college football is. Even though I voted for Sam Bradford this year, there could be a left guard or a nose tackle somewhere who is really the best player in the game. But how do you know that? The stats for those positions are virtually non-existent. While we say the Heisman is given to the best player in college football, we don’t really know that it is. It’s just the best player based on the information and evaluation that we can come by.

Finally, name a Heisman winner from the past you wish you could’ve voted for.  (i.e.–your ideal Heisman winner).

I would’ve been honored to cast a vote for Ernie Davis in 1961. The Syracuse halfback was the first African American to win the Heisman, and I think his victory was further signal of the change in America. Sports has often led the way when it comes to social change, and Ernie Davis was one of the faces of that change. 

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Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›