There isn’t a more prestigious individual award in all of
sports than the Heisman Trophy. The aura surrounding the iconic stiff-arming statue
is unlike anything seen in other “most valuable player” titles.
What the award has become lately, however, is a
crowning of college football’s most marketable player rather than its best.
It has always been difficult for athletes who play positions that don’t create noticeable stats to earn Heisman consideration. There
has only been one primarily defensive player to win the Heisman in the
trophy’s history. Most winners are either quarterbacks or running backs, with a
wide receiver sprinkled in here and there.
Catching Heisman voters’ attention is even more difficult
now, as the recent trend of winners have not only been players in those key
field positions but also NFL-bound, uber-athletic youngsters who seemed to dominate the
highlight reels on a weekly basis.
There have been three sophomore Heisman recipients in the
past five years. Prior to those, there hadn’t been a single underclassman to win
the award in the trophy’s history. Four recent winners left school early
for the NFL, and one of them (Cam Newton, of Auburn) was on his school’s campus for only a
For an award so stooped in tradition, it sure has
lost some of its historic ways. The bronze trophy used to be given exclusively
to upperclassmen who had helped build their program up throughout their time on
campus, not to whoever happened to jump on the scene and could fill up air time
on Sports Center’s Top 10 plays.
However, there is one candidate for this year’s trophy who perfectly fits the traditional Heisman mold. A senior quarterback who has
noticeably improved in each of his seasons, plans on graduating, and has been a
key component in the improvement of his program throughout his tenure; it’s
almost the stuff of legend that this type of candidate still exists in the day
and age of RGIIIs and Sam Bradfords.
Of course I’m talking about Collin Klein.
Yes, yes, I’m a K-State student and fan, but that doesn’t
hinder the fact that Klein’s style is undeniably unique from what we’ve seen in
recent Heisman contenders. What he lacks in flash, Klein makes up for in
Where the likes of Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III would dazzle
viewers with their electrifying plays, Collin Klein is able to do remarkable
things in a more subtle fashion.
I’m not saying that Klein can’t light up a defense, because
he has certainly proven throughout this season that he can, but his real
brilliance comes where a typical fan might have to look a bit more closely.
Where most quarterbacks would slide to avoid a hit on a
scramble, Klein welcomes the contact with open arms. It’s genuinely amazing the
kind of physicality he takes part in every week.
His toughness is reminiscent of old-fashioned football, engaging
contact in an effort to gain a few more yards rather than get out of bounds to
reduce the risk of injury. Klein’s style of play would make any old ball coach
Klein’s ability to orchestrate time-consuming drives is also
masterful. It may be prettier to watch Geno Smith score within mere minutes, but
its more impressive to see Collin Klein eat up half of a quarter’s worth of
time in route to a touchdown. The term “field general” is commonly used to
describe a quarterback’s job, and Klein is the George Patton of the gridiron.
While the likes of ESPN and other media outlets would rather see a flashier, more marketable contender leading the Heisman race, Klein’s fundamental ways are a breath
of fresh air for a trophy that has seemed in recent years more like a prediction of the NFL’s
next top draft pick than a reward for college football’s best player.
Instead of dominating highlight reels, Klein does what is
necessary to win and then some. He makes the crucial passes,
doesn’t turn the ball over, and facilitates his offense, turning it into a well-oiled
machine. It’s hard not to respect the precision and efficiency of a Klein-lead offense.
Klein’s traditional style may be seen as boring to some, but
to me it’s a refreshing reminder of what an old-school candidate looks like. In
an era of trophy winners who seem to be more focused on their professional
prospects than their collegiate careers, Collin Klein’s position in the
Heisman race brings the award’s culture back to it’s roots and breathes new
life into a trophy that has lost some of it’s historic luster.
Donald Pepoon is a sophomore in business administration. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.