Larry Johnson is the last Penn State football player to win the Maxwell Award, presented annually to college football's top player by the Maxwell Football Club. He is also the only non-quarterback to win the award dating back to 2000. If things play out in his favor, Penn State running back Silas Redd could be the next to break that streak of dominance.
Redd was named to the initial watch list released by the Maxwell Football Club for the 2012 Maxwell Award. At first glance it is easy to suggest that Redd is a long shot to win the award, as the list is littered with top-quality quarterback candidates such as USC's Matt Barkley, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Michigan's Denard Robinson. The odds are certainly in favor of a quarterback coming away with this year's award with the track record established since 2000, when Purdue's Drew Brees was awarded college football's top honor outside of the Heisman Trophy.
But there are some worthy running back candidates to be considered in the conversation. Redd may not quite be in the conversation but with a productive season and some big performances early on, he could play his way in to the mix.
Wisconsin's Montee Ball should be considered the top running back in the running this season just based off of his excellent 2011 season. South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore, who once considered Penn State during his recruitment, could be the second back in the pecking order. Nebraska's Rex Burkhead finished ahead of Redd among Big Ten rushing leaders as well.
Just what does it take to win the Maxwell Award as a running back? Alabama running back Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2009 after rushing for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns. It was Texas quarterback Colt McCoy who won the Maxwell Award. USC running back Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy in 2005, but the Maxwell Award went to another Texas quarterback, Vince Young.
Silas Redd may be a very good running back. Is he great? Not yet. Even if he does elevate to greatness in 2012, history proves that even that may not be enough to come home with the Maxwell Award. Of course, history may be on Redd's side.
No school has had as many Maxwell Award winners as Penn State. Penn State has had seven Maxwell Award winners since the first postseason award was presented in 1937. Quarterback Richie Lucas was the first Penn State player to win the Maxwell Award, doing so in 1959. Offensive lineman Glenn Ressler followed in 1964, and defensive tackle Mike Reid came five years later. Chuck Fusina (1978) and Kerry Collins (1994) also won the honor.
John Cappelletti was the first Penn State running back to win the Maxwell Award in 1973 and Larry Johnson was the second in 2005. Can Redd join them? What will it take for Redd to make enough people notice him among a throng of college football stars figured to have a head jump on the Maxwell Award chase?
One thing is for sure. If Redd puts together a season worthy of Maxwell award hype, the Nittany Lions could be in store for a fantastic season.
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ circle.