- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- American football player
We’re not supposed to divulge our Heisman Trophy ballots until after the winner is announced this Saturday. But for the team I cover, the season-long dream of its star running back winning the Heisman Trophy died ahead of schedule, when Kenneth Walker III wasn’t among the four finalists selected Monday to be in New York for this weekend’s ceremony.
My responsibility here is first to you, the reader and, perhaps, Michigan State football fan. Believe it or not, I do a better job writing for you than I do with my Heisman Trophy ballot. And I’d bet my mother’s house that many of the 870 media members who are part of the 928 total votes are also better at their beats than they are their ballots.
Here’s the thing: Any writer or reporter covering one team or a couple teams for 12 hours every Saturday sees very little college football elsewhere. And none of us should be voting for an award that requires intimate knowledge of the national landscape. Nor should anyone who, year after year, puts a quarterback at the top of their ballot just because those are the names they know and the highlights they see.
Who votes and who leads our ballots most years has diminished the most prestigious individual award in sports. It’s a quarterback award, with exceptions made in certain years when there isn’t an obvious choice at that position and when someone else steals enough momentum.
Walker, against all odds, had that momentum for two months. Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson took it in November. Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. never had it and might have been the best player in college football. That’s what I’m told. I saw him play bits of a couple games.
But I saw all 263 runs by Walker. Every single step. All 1,636 yards and 18 TDs. And I saw about 20 throws by Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who I voted atop my ballot, just ahead of Walker and then Hutchinson, who I saw devastate several offenses, including MSU’s. Apologies to the Heisman Trust for leaking my ballot. But, again, understand the story of the Heisman Trophy, for most of my readers, ended Monday. To them, what happens Saturday in New York is irrelevant now.
Young’s performance against Georgia — the dominant defense of the year, or at least so we thought — pushed him over the top for me. Of course, I only saw parts of that game because I was covering an MSU-Toledo nonconference basketball game, which tipped off in the middle of the SEC championship. There were other Heisman voters at that basketball game. Probably hundreds more at basketball games that day around the country. We try to do the best we can with our votes, but those of us whose college football coverage is locally focused see less of players and teams from around the country than many of you.
One can make an argument for four Heisman finalists ahead of Walker. That's what voters did in sending Young, Hutchinson, Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud to New York. But I’d bet my sister’s house that many of the folks making that argument didn’t see enough of Walker to make it. Just like I didn’t see enough of Anderson to know where he truly belongs in the pecking order. I do know that Walker had a spectacular season. That he elevated an entire program and carried a team to 10-2 and a top-10 finish, a team that otherwise might have been .500, if that. He propelled the Spartans past Miami and Michigan and Penn State. If he hadn’t played at all against Ohio State, instead of carrying six times while hobbled in that debacle in Columbus, he would have been better off. That wasn’t on him.
I can explain Walker's impact all day. I saw everything. He’s absolutely Heisman-worthy. The same can probably be said for several other players. The timing of their most visible Heisman moments was no doubt better since they came late in the season.
I have a question for Heisman voters: Did you watch Walker run in the snow against Penn State? I didn’t think so. I didn’t catch much of Alabama-Auburn that day, either. Just the end, which left an impression.
I can’t imagine I’ll have a Heisman ballot next year. This column probably isn’t good for that. The vote won’t be better or worse without me. Just more of the same ignorance, quarterbacks and momentum. Quarterbacks have won the Heisman 17 times in the last 21 years. What are the odds that 17 times in 21 years a quarterback was actually the "most outstanding" player in college football? Come on.
If you want the selection process to be worthy of the Heisman Trophy’s prestige, bring some dignity and accuracy to it. Perhaps have a smaller panel of former coaches and maybe select national or retired media folks doing the voting — people who commit to watching as much as they can all season. Perhaps make the finalists for the Heisman the winners of the individual position awards — the Davey O’Brien (QBs), Doak Walker (running backs), Biletnikoff (receivers), Butkus (linebackers), and so on and so forth.
Because Saturday’s Heisman winner will have won a well-meaning vote. But he'll also have been picked by a lot of people who barely saw him play.
Contact Graham Couch at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Kenneth Walker's Heisman Trophy finalist snub was due to folks like me