It's been a while since we've seen a defensive player get invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York as a Heisman finalist. Wait, no it hasn't. It's been one year.
Tyrann Mathieu of LSU was invited last year. But we all knew he wasn't going to win that award.
He had some integrity concerns and because integrity is part of the criteria for Heisman voters, Mathieu was left off a lot of ballots, including mine.
Mathieu's fleeting flirtation with Heisman was well documented.
But he was a defensive player, so his invite to the Heisman ceremony was kind of like watching your high school marching band's tuba player get nominated for Homecoming King in high school—it's cute, kind of heartwarming but we all know the quarterback dating the head cheerleader is going to get the crown.
Mathieu isn't the only defensive player to ever be a serious contender in the Heisman race, albeit he did touch the ball more than most primarily defensive players. Mathieu also returned punts. In fact, he returned 27 punts—two for touchdowns—in 2011 and was among the top-ranked punt returners in FBS.
That's the secret for defensive players to get noticed by Heisman voters; play lights out defense and get a lot of ball touches. But most defensive players don't touch the ball a lot and thus, they get overlooked by the most prestigious award in college football.
The last time a (primarily) defensive player won the Heisman was in 1997.
Defensive back Charles Woodson of Michigan had 1,815 total votes beating out Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning with 1,543 votes.
It's been 14 years of futility for defensive players despite some of them collecting numerous awards that are solely defense-oriented.
If Ndamukong Suh—who won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy in 2009—can't win the Heisman, who else can?
Maybe a defensive player who was named the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year has a good shot at winning the Heisman?
Nope, Suh won that too—the first defensive player to do so—but he still couldn't strike the pose.
I wasn't a Heisman voter back in 2009 and I'm not sure I would have voted for him in my first slot, but I would've had him in my top three spots. The problem for me is that Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart were all over my television set scoring touchdowns. So were Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow.
Those guys put points on the board. Suh just turned quarterbacks into pancakes.
If only Heisman would give out two trophies. One for most outstanding player on offense and one for most outstanding player on defense/special teams.
Yes, the Chuck Bednarik Award is awarded to the best defensive player in college football and it's considered the Heisman for defensive players because it's not limited to a position like some other trophies.
The Chuck Bednarik Award is a very prestigious award. For defensive players. But can anyone really describe what that trophy looks like?
If you don't know what it looks like, it's OK, I don't expect you to know. But here's my next question: What does the Heisman trophy look like?
Did you strike the pose? Admit it, you did.
And that goes to show how prestigious and well-known this award is.
The Heisman is the most coveted award in college football and it's supposed to go to the most outstanding player in college football and it does with one caveat—it's limited, except for one player, to an offensive player.
When Desmond Howard returned a punt against Ohio State for a touchdown in 1991, he finished his gallop to the end zone in a most fitting manner. He struck the pose.
I've yet to see a defensive player get a "pick 6" and strike the pose afterward but maybe these players should start doing just that.
Maybe it'll get more Heisman voters' attention because last time I checked, there is no pose for the Chuck Bednarik Award. It's difficult to morph yourself into a tombstone-like shape, isn't it?
I'm not diminishing any of the defensive awards and in fact, I am a proud voter for many of them including the Nagurski, Lombardi and Lott. These are important trophies and their value should never be lessened.
But at the same time, the Heisman Trophy should recognize more defensive players as the most outstanding college football players. I'd like to see a big ugly get reduced to tears. And strike the pose, dammit.
I've got Notre Dame's Manti Te'o as a top five finalist for the Heisman. Unfortunately, I can only vote for three guys on my ballot.
If Te'o gets a interception off of Landry Jones this Saturday, I'll be happy for him. If he returns that pick for six points, I'll stand up cheer.
If he strikes the pose...
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!