The Heisman Trophy may have the words “Most Outstanding Player in Collegiate Football” inscribed on the famed bronzed statue, but if Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones fails to merit consideration for the award this season—add me to the legion of fans who could give a stiff-arm to a ceremony that has turned into the sport’s version of a political election.
The usual suspects designated as favorites to win the award are quarterbacks or running backs on a team that is usually ranked high at season’s end.
The last time an offensive lineman sniffed a mention for the Heisman was Ohio State tackle Orlando Pace, who finished fourth in 1996.
Every now and then, a defensive player will get tossed a bone in the form of an invitation—like Nebraska’s Ndamakong Suh and LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu in recent years—to claim a front row seat to watch an offensive player take home an award that routinely fails to acknowledge the fact that a non-skill player could realistically be one of the five best players in the nation.
Specifically, offensive linemen—who occupy the most selfless position in the sport—are ignored, which is why a player like Jones (whose resume could read as a novel) goes largely unnoticed when talking about the nation’s potential top player. (h/t RollTide.com)
And to be clear, Jones is more than just an exception to an unwritten rule.
He’s the best and most consistent player on a roster filled with athletic freaks—and he’s a true leader on a team that is expected to challenge for its third national title in four seasons.
Like Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated has aptly stated since last season, Jones’ play on the field is more than deserving for an award—one that does not delineate a specific position in its description—whose winner is supposed to represent the sport’s best player.
With Jones switching to his third position in as many seasons, he has a chance to accomplish something of historical proportions this fall—claim All-American honors at three different positions on the offensive line.
Additionally, if Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy—a dark-horse Heisman candidate himself—has a strong year and winds up taking in the ceremony in New York City, Jones will have led the way for three Heisman finalists.
As a redshirt freshman, Jones started all 14 games at right guard for a team that went 14-0 and captured the 2009 national title and helped running back Mark Ingram earn the school’s only Heisman Trophy to date.
He followed that up by garnering All-American honors as a sophomore in 2010, yet he accepted the move to left tackle a year later—which finished with his team winning another national title while earning himself the distinction of being selected as the Alabama’s third Outland Trophy winner after helping pave the way for Heisman finalist Trent Richardson.
Instead of cashing in on the chance to become a first-round NFL draft choice, Jones returned to school and will try his hand at putting a fitting cap to a career perhaps unmatched by few—if any—linemen in college football history.
But racking up awards that signify excellence—on and off the field—is nothing new to the 6’5”, 302-pound fifth-year senior.
There’s a reason Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban—who tosses compliments to individual players about as often as he smiles in a press conference—called Jones one of the five best players he has ever coached. (h/t Alex Scarborough, ESPN)
Putting Jones in a conversation for the Heisman is contingent on him excelling at center, but judging by his career to this point suggests that expecting anything less than an All-American-caliber effort would insult the intelligence of a student that recently graduated with a 4.0 average in accounting. (h/t Edward Aschoff, ESPN)
So while fans across the nation hype up players like USC quarterback Matt Barkley and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball amongst others for the Heisman race, forgive me for turning a deaf ear to the chatter in the same manner Heisman pundits have blindly ignored the brilliance displayed by Jones throughout his career.