If it feels like Auburn running back Tre Mason is late to the Heisman Trophy party, he's not.
He's been there the whole time, but only recently did he make his way to the dance floor.
The junior running back rushed for 468 yards over his last two games against Alabama and Missouri—which were the top two rush defenses in the SEC before Mason got a hold of them. He has broken the century mark in seven of his last eight games, with the one outlier being a 45-10 win over Florida Atlantic in which he only got 10 carries.
He has rushed for more than 100 yards against all five of Auburn's ranked opponents this season and has at least one rushing touchdown in 10 straight games.
Mason isn't "the new kid on the Heisman block," but he's been there all season. It just took Auburn's remarkable stretch run that led the Tigers into the BCS National Championship Game and a 304-yard, four-touchdown performance in the SEC Championship Game for the rest of the world to take notice.
His 22 rushing touchdowns on the season broke former quarterback Cam Newton's previous record of 20, which he posted during his 2010 Heisman Trophy-winning season. His 1,621 rushing yards this year places him second all-time in Auburn history, 165 behind Bo Jackson, who rushed for 1,786 when he won the Heisman Trophy in 1985.
|Tre Mason vs. FBS Top 50 Rush Defenses|
When asked about the Heisman after the game, Mason recognized that it has been a dream of his.
"This is a personal goal of mine," he said. "Everyone has goals of their own. It was always a dream, you know, growing up, wanting to win the Heisman. I'm sure that every kid that played football, that's one of their dreams."
Head coach Gus Malzahn stumped for his running back after the game as well.
"You're looking at one of the top running backs in college football, and he proved it again today," he said. "So usually, the best players on the best teams have a chance at it, and you're looking at one of those guys right here."
As Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com points out, the main reason Mason may not win it is time.
Tre Mason gave every early Heisman voter 304 reasons why you don't send in your ballot until all the games are played.— Kevin Scarbinsky (@KevinScarbinsky) December 8, 2013
He's more than just a one-year wonder though.
In a woefully anemic offense under former offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler in 2012, when everybody in the world knew what Auburn was doing, Mason still managed to rush for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns in a system that had a playbook the size of a small stack of post-it notes.
He's an established star who's just now starting to shine bright.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will likely hoist the stiff-arm trophy on Saturday night in New York—as he should. The quarterback of the No. 1 team in America has been remarkably consistent throughout the season and is the primary reason the Seminoles will square off with the Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6, 2014.
But Mason has been as well, and had Auburn—a team that was still unranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll on Oct. 13—been on the national radar sooner, perhaps Mason would have a chance of springing the Heisman upset.
He should get to New York, though, which is still a phenomenal honor.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.