The Heisman Trust has two choices. First, trust members can elect to vacate the award, leaving it as an empty hole where Bush’s No. 5 jersey used to reside. But the more intriguing option is to pitch the trophy to Young, a player no less deserving of the trophy. For its part, the Trust has stayed mum on the subject, declining to comment following a Tuesday night meeting.
Bush and Young were already forever linked, both because of the exciting highlights that made up their Heisman race and because both were a part of one of the greatest games in college football history to end the season. It was almost literary: Bush, the flash, won the individual award, the Heisman. And Young earned sweet revenge by leading his team to the ultimate prize, the BCS National Championship, over Bush’s USC Trojans.
Unfortunately, Bush’s actions drew attention away from one of the great all-time Heisman races, one made up of two of the most dynamic and explosive athletes of the past 25 years, if not of all-time.
Both came along at the perfect time for their skill sets. Bush’s appearance coincided when teams were killing themselves to find ways to put elusive athletes into space. With LenDale White taking the bulk of the bruising, between-the-tackles carries, Bush was freed to become one of the most terrifying players in college football, someone who could receive touches in a variety of ways and exploit matchup problems. Against Virginia Tech as a sophomore, Bush won the game by torching the defense as a receiver. As a junior, he averaged 8.7 yards per carry while amassing more than 2,200 rushing and receiving yards.
But if possible, Young supplied even a more dangerous player for defenses to cope with. A genetic freak, Young possessed the size and strength of a power back, but with the elusiveness and speed of a wide receiver. He threw the ball with the accuracy of a pocket passer and ran the zone read like it was invented for him. He ran away from defenders chasing him and threw over the top of those who didn’t respect his arm.
Young hit a milestone mark as a quarterback, passing for 3,000 yards and rushing for another 1,000, that hasn’t been hit before or since. As a spread quarterback, he completed 65.2 percent of his passes and accounted for 38 touchdowns. He led an offense that put up 50.2 points per game. Young finished the year ranked in the Big 12’s top four in both passing and rushing yards per game.
Perhaps most importantly, Young was far-and-away the prime player on the Texas offense. He was the alpha dog, while Bush was simply the shiniest cog on a well-oiled offensive machine. Bush’s quarterback, Matt Leinart, won the Heisman Trophy the year before. White rushed for more than 1,300 yards, while receiver Dwayne Jarrett almost hit that mark in receiving yards.
Meanwhile, Young’s top running back was a freshman, Jamaal Charles, who topped 800 yards. Young’s top receiver, Billy Pittman, didn’t even hit that point, catching 750 yards worth of passes. In a way, that added to Young’s mystique. Put him in a fourth-and-eight situation with the game on the line, and everybody knew who was getting the ball. Put Bush in a fourth-and-short in the same ball game, and he wasn’t even on the field.
Wednesday morning, Brent Musburger repeated what most of us already knew: that if the Heisman voters had their druthers in 2005 and were able to vote after the BCS National Championship game, they would have elected Young as the trophy winner by a landslide. In the same interview, Musburger added he wouldn’t have a problem if Young were awarded the trophy following Bush’s forfeiture.
That’s just an insight into the mind of one Heisman voter. And certainly, I don’t have a vote. But now that the trophy is no longer Bush’s, it’s a chance for the Heisman Trust to make the correct decision and give it to the player who should have received it all along.
It’s time to give the Heisman to Vince Young.