The Heisman Trophy.
It’s a peculiar award.
It gives the recipients the privilege of knowing that they are the best player in college football because they fall into a very specific yet strangely unknown category.
On the front page of B/R the other day, a great article by Dan Scofield pointed out several reasons why the Heisman Trophy doesn’t necessarily go to the Most Valuable Player of NCAA Football.
While reading this article, Toby Gerhart’s name kept pounding its way into my head, treating my brain like he would a wide-eyed linebacker.
I kept thinking, Gerhart hardly gets any publicity or credit for being the most valuable player on a team that is much improved and an early BCS conference contender thanks in large part to him.
But the more I thought about it, I concluded that Gerhart could quite possibly steal this award away from those currently favored. All it would take is for the Cardinal to follow up their solid start with an unimaginably magical season.
I know. It’s a long shot.
No, it’s more than a long shot.
It’s about as likely as me starting to care about former athletes performing dance numbers. But, if the dominoes fall just perfectly, the country could be watching Toby do a little jig of his own all the way up the Nokia Theater’s stage.
In Schofield’s article he points out six dents (a.k.a. extremely biased requirements) that a candidate must obtain before even being considered for the trophy.
The first one is easy
1) The winner must be a quarterback, running back, or a multi-threat, hybrid athlete.
After this, things start to get a little bit iffy.
2) The winner must have some prior name recognition.
If you asked the average non-Pac-10 college football fan if they know who Toby Gerhart is, the answer will most likely come up as “no.” But just because the east-coast/south biased fan base may not know who this stud is, it doesn’t mean he isn’t getting national attention on some levels.
Gerhart has been included on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, another trophy presented to the best collegiate football player in the US but somehow less prestigious than the Heisman, and he was also selected as a preseason candidate for the Doan Walker award, given to the nation’s top college running back.
It has been hard for Toby’s name to emerge into the national scene mainly because he has to fight for airtime with another outstanding Pac-10 star who happens to play the same position. But as Gerhart’s stats start to compile (currently ranking above Jahvid Best in yards/game), more and more college football aficionados across all time zones are starting to learn about this other bruising running back lurking in the Bay Area.
It is going to take a set of amazing stats to grab everyone’s attention, but Toby seems to be focused on the goal. He told CSN Bay Area in the preseason that he is shooting for 2,000 yards and it may take that much for him if he wants any chance of hoisting the Heisman.
3) The winner must perform well on national television and/or in big games.
Jim Harbaugh’s soldiers are scheduled to face Oregon, USC, California, and Notre Dame to end their season. All four are huge games and without a question, each will be a daunting task.
If Stanford can enter this Murder’s Row portion of their schedule unscathed (no more than one loss), Gerhart could have the opportunity to show off his talent in three consecutive games where the Pac-10 lead might be on the line.
These potentially marquee matchups could, in theory, decide the fate of a BCS conference. It will grab national attention, giving Gerhart a perfect stage to provide the world with glimpses of his quick, bulldozing style.
Outstanding performances in these final conference games could sway the minds of many, creating a stronger Heisman buzz around Toby.
To cap the season off, Gerhart will have a nationally televised game against Notre Dame to generate one last impression, a stage that could show the entire country why Toby is in fact the most valuable player in college football.
But, once again, several perfectly placed dominoes need to fall.
4) The winner must not be a player whose numbers are obviously inflated due to his team's system.
Gerhart’s number could definitely be considered as inflated to some since all Stanford seems to do is run the ball. But it’s hard to say that any running back’s numbers are inflated since they still have to scratch and claw for every yard that they record.
In 2008, Harbaugh ran the ball two-and-a-half more times than he threw it. This season he has decided to increase it to three.
But Harbaugh’s offense is not as one-dimensional as some might think.
While Gerhart is definitely the workhorse of this team, he won’t have to bear the entire load this season thanks to the addition of talented redshirt freshman Andrew Luck. The threat of an accurate quarterback will keep most opposing defenses on their toes and could provide Toby with more opportunities to break off big runs.
This one-two attack rivals the best in the Pac-10 and gives Stanford a chance to surprise the nation by contending for a BCS Bowl, which in turn could give the senior running back even more time to shine in the Heisman spotlight.
5) The winner must be: The top impact player on a national title contender or a consistent player over his career with above-average statistics from a traditional power with a good record (BCS worthy).
This is where Gerhart will have to earn his nomination for the Heisman just like he earns every bone-crushing yard on the field.
When Stanford goes through the gauntlet to finish off their season, Gerhart success will equal Stanford’s success. He will have to be the game-changing player that gets them past each opponent leading into December.
Without a consistently productive Gerhart, there is no chance that the Cardinal will be able to march through Murder’s Row and remain atop of the Pac-10 standings.
But, if Toby is able to take on the challenge, he will, without a doubt, be the top impact player in the Pac-10 and depending how the dominoes tumble in other conferences, a top impact player throughout college football.
6) Most importantly, the winner must be likeable and worthy of a media "man crush."
What’s there not to like about Toby Gerhart? He is a successful two-sport star who immediately grabs your attention the second he steps on the field.
People quickly fall in love with his hard-nosed style of football and can't wait to see him explode through the defensive line again and again. Plus, he is a standout character who just enjoys playing the game and wants to soak it all in while he can.
Take in one Stanford game this season and soon enough you will be screaming out “Toby Gerhart for the Heisman!” with me.
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