The Heisman Trophy is an annual award given to a player that is voted the most outstanding in collegiate football. Traditionally, "outstanding player" has been interpreted by voters to mean either a) a quarterback or b) a running back who plays for a Top Five team.
While there are numerous other awards that reward individual performance in the collegiate game, the Heisman is by far the most prestigious and receives the most media attention.
The 2009 college football season is unique because for the first time in years there has been one player that stood out in the ranks as clearly the most dominant and game-changing force in the game: Ndamukong Suh. And unfortunately for him, he is not a quarterback or running back and he does not play for a national title contender.
However, Suh's performance last night in the Big 12 Championship was one of the greatest single game defensive efforts in the history of college football. If ever a single game could offer proof alone that a defensive player ought to be rewarded with the title of the best player in college football and the Heisman, it was Saturday’s game.
The 6'4", 300-pound Suh harassed the Heisman-favorite Colt McCoy all night long. He made McCoy, to put it nicely, look like a junior varsity quarterback going up against a varsity defense on a high school practice field. Suh finished the game with 12 tackles, including seven for loss and a Big 12 Championship record and simply incredible four-and-one-half sacks in Nebraska’s 13-12 loss to No. 3 Texas.
What is equally impressive about Suh's performance against Texas is that he has consistently turned in similar games all year.
Suh's overall body of work this season has made him the likely recipient of a number of linemen and defensive awards, including the Outland, Bednarik, Walter Camp, and Lombardi trophies. He is also widely considered by NFL analysts to be the projected No. 1 Draft pick in 2010.
It is this award, the No. 1 NFL Draft Pick, that seems to most accurately choose the most outstanding player in college football every year and carry with it the most bang for the buck, if you know what I mean.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper listed Suh as his top pick for the Heisman and his projected top pick for the draft weeks ago. While I normally do not always concur with Mel Kiper or his excessive use of hair gel, I can't agree with him more on this question.
Most analysts, however, have centered recent Heisman conversations around offensive players like Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, and Clemson running back C.J. Spiller.
If any of these players wins the award over Suh, it would be a travesty.
Ever college football season produces running backs like C.J. Spiller, Toby Gerhart, and Mark Ingram. They are good backs, but they are not special. They are not even Adrian Peterson special, by the way, who only finished second in Heisman voting in 2004.
Similarly, the performances of Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow have been great this year, but they are not anything that will stand out as single-season spectacular years from now looking back.
Ndamukong Suh, on the hand, has turned in a 2009 football season that is spectacular. To use a tired cliche, it is one for the ages. Suh is arguably the greatest college football defensive tackle to play the college game, if not all-time at least in a generation. I have no doubt that he will prove this at the NFL level, but it would be nice if his great performance in college could be recognized now with a Heisman.
In short, as Nebraska fans like to cheer after a big play, “Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh” for Heisman.