I turned in my Heisman Trophy ballot this year just before the deadline. I waited as long as possible because it was such a tough decision this year.
Some years it is, some years it isn’t.
In the end, though, how could I not give my first-place vote to Alabama junior running back Derrick Henry? The competition was stuff, especially from Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, also juniors and also special.
There was no wrong vote, I surmised. These three could go in any order.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Henry won. He accumulated 378 first-place votes and 1,832 overall points. McCaffrey was second with 290 first-place votes and 1,539 points while Watson finished third, getting 148 first-place votes and 1,165 points.
They were far and away the top vote-getters but the results weren’t as close as anticipated. Henry was a clear-cut winner.
In the wake of Monday night’s 45-40 Alabama win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship game, many Heisman voters are having second thoughts because of the superlative play of the Tigers’ Watson. Some are saying the Heisman vote needs to happen after the championship game to assure giving the award to the right player.
Listen, I get it. I understand why everyone is caught up in Watson, who passed for 405 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for another 73 in Clemson’s 45-40 loss to Alabama. He’s amazing, spectacular, pick your superlative. And anyone who voted for Watson to win the Heisman should feel proud and justified today.
Ditto for McCaffrey, who led Stanford to an impressive 45-16 win over Iowa in the Rose Bowl by rushing for 172 yards on 18 carries. He’s great and how in the world is Kansas State going to deal with him in the 2016 season opener in Palo Alto?
But Henry ain’t exactly chopped liver.
Some are pointing toward his pedestrian second half Monday night as evidence that Watson, anything but pedestrian, should have won the Heisman.
Um, folks, Alabama did win the national championship. And Henry rushed for 158 yards on 36 carries and scored three touchdowns, including an electrifying 50-yarder early that set the tone for an incredible game.
Henry averaged only 4.4 yards per carry and had to work for everything. Clemson’s defense, as you would expect, was geared to make his night difficult. Still, he scored three times. He had 158 yards. He scored from a yard out with just over a minute left.
Watson was more dynamic Monday night, you won’t get an argument on that. He was Clemson’s offense and without him the game is so one-sided as to be uninteresting.
But I’m sticking with Henry as my Heisman Trophy winner. He’s eligible for the NFL draft, although most of the experts don’t have him going until the second round. That’s the current value of prospective running backs, which seems odd.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the stock rises higher for Stanford’s McCaffrey next year.
Watson, meanwhile, is sure to be one of the first picks in the 2017 NFL draft. And he’ll be the Heisman frontrunner going into next season, with McCaffrey right there.
Both might surpass Henry in the NFL. Who knows?
But for this season, Henry is a deserving Heisman winner. He’s Alabama’s all-time leading rusher with 3,591 yards and 2,219 of those came this season, when he scored 28 touchdowns. McCaffrey, by comparison, had eight TDs.
Those of us who voted for Henry don’t deserve to be second-guessed, even if we’re second-guessing ourselves. Which I’m not, by the way. I’m proud to say I voted for Henry, one of the greatest players in the great history of Alabama football, to win the Heisman.