The spotlight on Saturday night expects to shine bright on one of three college football stars: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o or Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
Meanwhile, far from center stage, three more players deserving of invites get left in the dark: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, USC receiver Marqise Lee and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
While not intending to slight Manziel, Te’o or Klein, I find it hard to consider either the best college football player, despite the intrigue and hype surrounding the trio.
Miller passed for 2,039 yards and 15 TDs, and rushed for 1,271 yards and 13 scores for a 12-0 Buckeyes team ineligible for a bowl game.
Lee (pictured right) totaled 112 receptions for 1,680 yards for a Trojans team with five losses. Lee enjoyed arguably the best individual performance of the season when he tallied 16 catches for 345 yards and two TDs against Arizona.
An early Heisman favorite, Smith sparked the explosive Mountaineers offense to 41.8 points per game. He passed for 4,004 yards with 40 TDs and six interceptions, and completed 71.4 percent of his attempts.
That said, Manziel (pictured left) earned his place in New York City, rushing for 1,118 yards and 19 TDs and passing for 3,419 yards with 24 TDs and eight interceptions. Doing it as a freshman, in the mighty Southeastern Conference, and against defending champion Alabama, only sweetened the pie for the Tyler-born Manziel.
But for all the legendary Heisman winners, including Tyler’s own Earl Campbell, a long list of snubs exists: from Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson to Pittsburgh’s Larry Fitzgerald and San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk. All three compiled impressive Sunday r￩sum￩s while their counterparts who won the prize left their glory on Saturdays at the collegiate level.
Fitzgerald racked up 1,672 yards during the 2003 season, only to lose out to a quarterback from a premier program, Oklahoma’s Jason White. More than 10,000 receiving yards and 77 TDs later in the NFL, the Fitzgerald argument still bodes well compared to White, who barely sniffed the NFL after going undrafted.
Peterson produced 1,925 yards with 15 TDs, only to lose the 2004 award to USC quarterback Matt Leinart. Peterson finds himself in the midst of a career year with the Vikings, atop the NFL in rushing yards (1,446), with Leinart situated in a backup role with Oakland.
Faulk finished the 1992 season with 1,630 yards and 15 TDs rushing, but still trailed Miami quarterback Gino Torretta for the Heisman. While Faulk made the Hall of Fame, Torretta never turned into a NFL starter.
The last two Heisman winners, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin, transitioned quite well into the NFL.
As for the 2012 winner, only time will tell if his current weekend show translates to the next day. Or if deserving ones left out of the picture backstage manage to upstage them at the highest level.
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