The prestigious Doak Walker Award was created in 1989 to recognize the nation's premier running back for his accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom and citizenship in the community. It is the only major collegiate football award that requires all candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate within one year of other students of the same classification.
Trent Richardson qualified for the Doak Walker Award in 2011 and was announced the winner on December 8 at The Home Depot College Football Awards, held in Orlando, Fla.
Richardson had 1,910 rushing yards and 327 yards as a receiver in a season-long campaign that led his team into the postseason with an opportunity to compete in the national championship was enough to convince the SMU Athletic Forum that Richardson was their man in 2011.
Richardson's accomplishments are highlighted by nine games in which he rushed for more than 100 yards, 20 touchdowns, a season best 203 rushing yards against in-state rival Auburn, and 169 all-purpose yards against the nations No. 2 defense, LSU Tigers. Fifty percent of the rushing yards total came after contact, against some of the best defenses in the nation.
In the contest against the LSU Tigers, Richardson gained 103 yards rushing, lost 14 yards, and had 80 yards receiving. The net yardage reflected the teams concentration on balance in their attack against the second best defense in the country. His longest rush was for 24 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. His 39 yard gain on a reception out of the backfield was the longest completion on the night by both teams
The Award's namesake, Doak Walker, was a three-time All-American running back from SMU who won the 1948 Heisman Trophy. Walker led the Mustangs to two Southwest Conference Championships. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions.
As a rookie, Walker led the NFL in scoring and eventually led the team to two NFL championships. He was also chosen as an All-Pro, four times while a Lion. Walker's legacy includes being a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
As the most recent recipient of the Doak Walker Award, Richardson not only fulfills the criteria of an excellent player, he is a model student athlete, and his activities away from the field and classroom are focused on improving him as a father and contributor to his community in service and outreach.
The Heisman Trophy has continued to capture the attention of the media as the most prestigious college football award. Afterall, it is the media that awards the trophy. And it has become a media spectacle since ESPN has become the main contributor to the Heisman Foundation.
In 2011, the award was handed to Robert Griffin, III, RG3, or "baby Jesus" as Chris Fowler referred to him during the award ceremony. With superman socks and all, he was the winner by 280 points (1,687 total points), with Andrew Luck placing second (1,407 total points) and Richardson placing third (978 total points).
Griffin was the unanimous first place choice in each of the five regions, including the south, due to the late addition of Tyrann Matthieu to the Heisman Ballot. Matthieu's 22 first place votes were primarily from southern sports writers and media personnel. Both Griffin and Matthieu accumulated a great deal of their support in the last week of play, the week prior to the ballot deadline, while Richardson and Luck were watching in street clothes.
Benefiting from an extra week of play is not in the spirit of the original intent for the award by any means; it is a new trend and one that will likely continue. In fact, this type of surge is counter to the original intent of the award. In the end, it could erode the significance of this prestigious award.
In years past, the award was intended for the athlete who contributed most to the progress of their team and program over an extended period of time. It seems now that growth and progress need only to be sustained for a single season.
And in the case of Tyrann Matthieu, for contributions less than an entire season. A highlight reel of plays for a defensive and special teams player that does not include a single tackle, only opportunistic scores aided by precision play from his team mates.
And for Matthieu, that season includes suspension for a violation of team rules. Suspension that includes the criminal use of illegal drugs. And if your answer to that is, "it was just a little pot." then you need to spend some time watching the television series Breaking Bad to see where that leads, according to criminal activity statistics.
At least for the week and during the award presentation, Matthieu was on good behavior and tolerable to watch. Hopefully, he has learned through this process that character matters. That will play out over the next season.
Interestingly, ESPN followed the award ceremony with the airing of The Marinovich Project, a wonderful review of the early sports life of Todd Marinovich and the path his life took after the influence of drugs took over during his college playing years.
In the end, the Heisman Award was given to a worthy recipient in the person of Robert Griffin, III. Congratulations to the Heisman Foundation and to Griffin.
Jason Kirk stated it best in a recent article.
"Robert Griffin III deserves the Heisman Trophy because he was, by any measure, the most outstanding player in college football this year.
In leading Baylor to a 9-3 record and No. 12 ranking in the BCS, Griffin amassed over 4,500 total yards and 45 touchdowns, broke the NCAA single-season record for passing efficiency (192.3 for Griffin this year) and led the country in yards per pass attempt. Baylor's offense ranked No. 1 in the country according to Football Outsider's FEI, while most rankings had our defense in the 100s.
No player means more to his team or to his community than Robert Griffin, who played his best in Baylor's biggest games (particularly against OU and UT late in the season). He delivered constant excitement and led his team to heights we've never seen before. He deserves the Heisman."
In fact, it was refreshing to see Griffin softly scold Chris Fowler for the inappropriate religious reference. Socks and all, he is a talented athlete, an incredibly well-balanced young man with the potential for professional career in football and even higher potential for a career that will evolve into something even more special when his time on the gridiron expires.
Provided that Mr. Griffin remains focused on the things that make you better suited for success, while avoiding the snares and traps in this life, expect great things from the 2011 Heisman recipient.
But let's hope that those given the privilege to vote through the Heisman Foundation, previous winners and the media folks who are responsible for giving the award get back to the original intent of the award and get back to doing the hard work of evaluating a player's entire body of work.
They, meaning responsible voters, must also avoid the traps of the times by choosing not to cower to the populous, not to award this prestigious prize based on the most recent polls or develop a tolerance for the fragile character of young men and cast a vote for a poor role model just because he is a good player on the field.
It's not just what you did in your last game that matters, and one shouldn't be able to pass another while someone else remains idle unless that someone is injured, simply unable to play. All who are able to compete should during a specified period of time, and that time must end at some point that is fair to all who are in consideration for the award.
If that means including performances in the postseason,so be it, the entire post season. Remember, national championships were once awarded before the postseason. It may be time to move the most prestigious award to the postseason as well.
Because there are still those young men out there, and plenty of them, that stay the course and work hard despite knowing that there are easier ways to compete, with sometimes better short-term results. Yet they make the right choice because the right choices are what in the end make them better in life.
College awards should be for the student-athlete that does things the right way, and their recognition for achievement will model the path of success for future recipients. Good behavior should be rewarded. Bad behavior should be shunned. If you reward for bad behavior, you will get more bad behavior. That is an undisputed, scientifically proven fact.
Doak Walker retired in 1955, accepting a job offer from an electrical construction company that paid the same salary he was earning in the NFL. The business soon transferred him to Colorado, where he lived the rest of his life. He stated that he wanted to "get out while I still have all my teeth and both my knees."
Walker thought about coaching football, but after going on a recruiting trip for SMU, he became disenchanted with the direction collegiate sports was going. Eventually, he went into business for himself and operated Walker Chemicals.
Those of us who follow sports know what eventually happened at SMU regarding its football program. Apparently, Mr. Walker saw it coming and distanced himself from the impending atrocity, years before the collapse. Hopefully, those in charge of awarding these prestigious awards will have the vision of the great Doak Walker and change things before they erode to the point of insignificance.