There is no Heisman jinx. Sure, Mark Ingram became only the sixth player since 1950 to win the Heisman Trophy and the national championship in the same season, and only the second of the past eight seasons to win both (Matt Leinart ’04). It’s called a jinx, but all it really is is a testament that Heisman voters consistently pick the wrong guy to win.
Heisman winners also historically fail at the NFL level. Why would that be, do you suppose? It’s not because of the pressure of being a Heisman winner, that’s for certain. Elite athletes thrive on pressure. The only rational reasoning for it is, again, that Heisman voters are inherently unqualified to decide who the most outstanding college football player is.
They mitigate these failures by pointing out that Heisman excellence doesn’t necessarily parlay into future success as a football player. They say that it represents only a snapshot of a single season in a player’s career. His college career. Tim Tebow is the poster boy for this line of thinking. Tebow is obviously a great college football player, one of the greatest of all time, and everyone predicts him to fail at the next level. But then they all predicted Eric Crouch to succeed, didn’t they? So what do they know. Fact is, we’ll have to give Tebow the opportunity for failure–or success–to decide if the formula Heisman voters claim they use is what they say it is.
For Heisman voters, nothing could be worse for them than if Tebow failed at the pro level. Their entire system would be debunked.
Whatever formula it is, it’s is so ridiculous and so blatantly political in nature that often the runner-up goes on to have a successful pro career. For instance, Marshall Faulk finished second behind Gino Torretta in 1992. Rashaan Salaam beat out Steve McNair in 1994. See the trend?
The Heisman is a popularity contest first, and second it’s an award designed to reward itself. Meaning, low-profile athletes at schools that are not “elite” programs are not going to win. Only thirdly is the Heisman Trophy awarded for skill or merit.
But as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. And sometimes Heisman voters get it right. Like 2009, for instance.
Mark Ingram didn’t have the most yards or touchdowns, but was clearly the most outstanding player in college football in the ’09 season. And he proved it, too. After winning the award he went on to dominate in the BCS National Championship game, proving that he is both an elusive back as well as a bruising runner who simply could not be brought down by the first attempt.
Time will tell, certainly, whether or not Ingram will be successful in the long run, but for the moment it looks as if, finally, Heisman voters are trying to get it right.