The first sentence of the Heisman Trust Mission Statement doesn't mention wins and losses, completion percentages or average yards per carry. It says this: "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."
As each day goes by, Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston moves farther from those words, and Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron moves closer.
Heisman ballots aren't due until December 9, and there still are some big games to be played, but as things stand now, on the field and off, I'm going to place McCarron first on my ballot, and I will not be putting Winston in either the second or third spot.
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Nor for that matter will I be making a place for Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M sophomore quarterback who won last year. Never before had a freshman won the Heisman. Perhaps now we know why. Manziel has given us an opportunity to see exactly what that looks like – autographs, arrogance and all.
He's a fabulously entertaining athlete. But has he pursued excellence with integrity? Not exactly.
The same goes for Winston. A year ago, he and some Florida State teammates were questioned by police after 13 windows were broken at an apartment complex after an apparent BB gun fight. Then, this July, a Burger King employee called police to complain that Winston was stealing soda, first using ketchup cups, then repeatedly filling a water cup without paying.
Compared to an allegation of rape, which Winston is also facing, this sounds like college hijinks. Winston is not the first male college athlete to shoot a BB gun or steal soda. But for a young man considered the favorite for the highest honor in college sports, one with that pesky noun "integrity" in the first sentence, this kind of behavior should immediately give Heisman voters second thoughts, if not a second choice.
But will it? Will voters seriously pay attention to the almost non-stop procession of Jameis Winston off-the-field headlines? I'm not optimistic. Cam Newton threw a stolen laptop out his dorm window, later left the University of Florida and received a six-figure bid for his services from boosters of one SEC school – and he won the 2010 Heisman with ease.
What's more, while Reggie Bush returned his controversial Heisman, O.J. Simpson still has his. Perhaps integrity went out the window with Newton's laptop.
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Winston's candidacy already justifiably should have been in trouble due to the extremely serious accusation that he sexually assaulted a woman last December. While controversy swirls around how the case was handled by the local police, it also is clear that Florida State failed in its legal duty to investigate the case within 60 days of the alleged attack. Perhaps FSU thought the law said 60 weeks, or 60 years.
Any school that has a player who wins the Heisman basks in the glow forever. Do voters really want to reward Florida State with a Heisman after its glaring inaction in this ongoing legal mess?
This brings us to McCarron, who, at the most competitive time in college football history, coming from the game's strongest conference, has led Alabama to two consecutive national championships and will play for a third if the top-ranked Crimson Tide defeat No. 4 Auburn Saturday and then win the SEC championship game next weekend.
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At a time when we seem to value the newest new thing, his is the steady, classy hand that has guided one of the great programs of this generation. McCarron has earned the trust and respect of Nick Saban, the best and most demanding coach in today's game. That should count for something. He has as many national championships as he has defeats: two. If he leads Alabama to another title, that will be his third ring as a starter and his fourth overall, counting his first year as a redshirt. That is just a stunning sports statistic.
Let's look at that word again: integrity. Over the years, the Heisman mission statement has been forgotten, if it ever was remembered, and ignored, if it ever was read at all. It's so old school it's almost laughable. Except that it seems to describe McCarron perfectly. The only controversy that has ever surrounded him had nothing to do with him; it involved the industrial-strength praise heaped upon his girlfriend, Katherine Webb, by TV commentator Brent Musburger during last season's BCS championship game.
So, explain to me again why McCarron is not the leading candidate for this award. He certainly doesn't need the Heisman, but it sure needs him.
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