Once upon a time, the Heisman Trophy was awarded to the best player in college football. While it was typically an offensive player, Charles Woodson was an anomaly as he bucked that trend by winning it in 1997.
Outside of that, offensive players have won every other year since 1935. In recent memory, quarterbacks have dominated the conversation when winning the Heisman year-after-year. Since 2010, only one non-quarterback won, and that was Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015. This year, Devonta Smith should be the odds-on favorite to win the award, but he does not play a position that usually wins the Heisman.
When looking at the landscape of the Heisman, Smith checks all the boxes. He has the flair, stats, production, eye-test, and he plays for a blue blood program in Alabama.
While all those things are true, history is not on Smith’s side.
The last time a wide receiver won the prestigious award was in 1991 when Michigan’s Desmond Howard brought the trophy back to Ann Arbor. It would be hard to believe that there has not been a single wide receiver to win the said award since then. Guys like Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Keyshawn Johnson, Michael Crabtree, Larry Fitzgerald, Tavon Austin, and many more had the numbers to win the trophy, but never took it home. Voters have a recent bias towards quarterback because it is the most important on the field, but ironically, they need wide receivers to succeed.
In a year where games have been canceled and Heisman-worthy candidates have missed games, it does not take a rocket scientist to say that Smith is the easiest choice for the award. Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence have played great football, but they have not played enough games to win the award. Florida’s Kyle Trask will be in the conversation, but a recent loss to LSU lessened his chances. BYU’s Zach Wilson was a cute story to win the Heisman, but when it mattered most, he did not deliver against Coastal Carolina. Mac Jones (Who?!) was also in the conversation, but since has fallen down the rankings due to his surging teammate.
Smith is the right choice for a multitude of reasons. He has no blemishes on his Heisman resume and he is dominating the game at wide receiver in a way that has not been seen in years. In just ten games, Smith has 83 receptions, 1,327 yards, and 18 total touchdowns. Smith’s game has risen to a new level in the absence of Jaylen Waddle and he has put the team on his back in a sense. His Heisman moment came against Mississippi State when he corralled in 11 catches for 203 yards and four touchdowns.
In addition to his insane numbers, he is playing for the No.1 team in the country. Nick Saban knows a thing or two about coaching Heisman Trophy winners, so of course, he will be on the campaign trail.
A lot has been wrong this year in college football, due to COVID, and other issues, but this is the time to make things right by awarding the best player on the field the Heisman.
History states that this will not happen but in the words of urban philosopher Cam’ron, who am I to f*** tradition up?
It would be a disservice to Devonta Smith, Alabama, and true college football fans if he does not win the Heisman Trophy, but given how the year has gone thus far, nothing is certain at this point.