If you had asked me in August if Alabama's running back Mark Ingram was a serious candidate for the Heisman Trophy in 2009 I would have smiled and said, "No way." After watching him play 13 games I now believe he deserves the most talked about personal award in college football, awarded tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Let me explain my reasons since football fans might say I am just slightly biased since I love the Crimson Tide.
Ndomukong Suh, the big defensive lineman from Nebraska might be the best player in college football this year. The guy is amazing. I have never seen an interior lineman dominate a game like he did last Saturday against Texas. This guy is amazing and will surely be a top three or four pick in the NFL draft. He could win the trophy and I would be happy for him and the fans of Nebraska. But defensive linemen do not usually win this award.
Toby Gerhart of Stanford is another monster running back on a pretty good team. He got big media coverage for his huge performance against some very bad defenses;. e.g. Notre Dame, USC, etc.
The other two finalists, besides Ingram, are Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow. Both are sensational young men and talented quarterbacks. But both played very poorly on the biggest stage of all, last week's conference championship games. McCoy was positively terrible and Tebow was only a little better.
For me the Heisman is about not only the best player but the best player performing at his best when his team, usually a top team, needs him to perform. All year long Mark Ingram did that for the University of Alabama, the number one ranked team in the land. Except for the Auburn game, Ingram performed at top level every week. The only reason he did not run for 100 yards every week was because he was limited by the coaching staff because his backup, Trent Richardson, is also one of the best young runners in the sport. Further, the coaches took Ingram out of games when he could have run up huge numbers and did not.
During the time in Alabama's season when the team was not playing at its best the guy who carried them time and time again was Ingram. He made the big plays when the offense struggled and he made them in the toughest places. He ran against some of the best defenses in the game and he proved his toughness and athleticism week after week. For me Mark Ingram personifies what the trophy is all about.
As some of you fans know Alabama has never had a winner of this award in its long, storied football history. Will tonight become the first? I will be watching and hoping but then the award I really want is the crystal ball on the night of January 7 because that is the ultimate team award: National Champions. Roll Tide.
By the way, Ingram is a sophomore so no matter what happens tonight he is back next year, the only one of the five who will be playing college football next year.