Joe Medley Commentary: If only Heisman was career award

December 10, 2013 

There's no mystery over which player will win the Heisman Trophy, but other finalists bring career resumes to rival Jameis Winston's single-season brilliance.

So, what if college football's top award was more of a career-achievement award? What if it officially recognized more than one season of greatness?

At a time when first-year players and underclassmen have taken over, maybe the Heisman needs to become more career-oriented.

That way, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Auburn running back Tre Mason, the two finalists playing in Alabama, could go to New York with a real shot for more than the experience.

Same for Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

As it is, the Heisman generally rewards relevance within one season, and Winston beats fellow finalists McCarron, Mason, Lynch, Manziel and Boston College running back Andre Williams on that count in 2013.

Never mind the obvious numbers. The redshirt freshman from Hueytown has passed unbeaten Florida State through a run of routs to its first berth in the Bowl Championship Series final since 2000.

In one playing season under Jimbo Fisher, Winston has returned Florida State to Bobby Bowden-heyday relevance.

He's expected to win the Heisman vote in a landslide, even if he loses protest votes over a complaint of sexual battery, which resulted in an investigation but no charges.

Within the context of a single season's work, Winston wins the vote easily.

This comes a year after Manziel, then a redshirt freshman, became the first freshman and second-youngest player to win the Heisman.

That just two years after Auburn quarterback Cam Newton converted his one,

ground-breaking season of Division I excellence into a Heisman.

And that came a year after Alabama running back Mark Ingram became the youngest player and third sophomore in a row to win a Heisman.

It would be nice if McCarron, a senior, went to New York with a real chance to bring home a Heisman for two national-championship rings and a 36-3 record in three years as the starting quarterback for college football's most relevant program over the past five years.

He had a combined 158.2 quarterback rating for his two BCS final performances, and he was the player face of an Alabama team that held this season's No. 1 ranking from preseason through the final week of the regular season, when the Tide lost to Auburn.

Or how about Mason, a junior who's more than a one-game wonder?

Yes, his 304-yard performance against Missouri on Saturday came within 46 yards of Alabama's one-year-old SEC Championship Game team rushing record. More than any other single factor, his performance against Missouri landed him on this year's Heisman finalist list.

But he rushed for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns to lead this season's top rushing team to the BCS final. He's one of the biggest reasons why Auburn went from 3-9 a year ago to 12-1 and SEC champion this season.

Mason is also the one constant through both seasons. Even as Auburn suffered its worst season in 60 years in 2012, he rushed for 1,002 yards.

Having read-option partner Nick Marshall maximized Mason this year, but Mason had his 1,000-yard season a year ago despite miserable quarterback play. He posted thousand-yard seasons in Gus Malzahn's hurry-up spread offense and with Scot Loeffler calling plays in Auburn's doomed digression to a pro-style offense in 2012.

The latter is a career achievement.

Mason and McCarron go to New York with the reigning Heisman winner in Manziel, who brought us "Johnny Cam" and remains the must-watch reason for any relevance Texas A&M has enjoyed in two years of SEC play.

They go to New York with Lynch, who quarterbacked Northern Illinois to a BCS bowl a year ago and within one victory of another one this season.

Surely, they're worthy of consideration for a career-achievement award, if only the Heisman was one.

-- Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, jmedley@annistonstar.com. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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