The Heisman Trophy is a debate waiting to happen. Always has been and always will be. Those debates can be about who the greatest Heisman winner is/was, who the best player in a year (think 1997) was or the question that probably gets asked more by people like us who is the greatest player never to win the Heisman*.
* For the record my responses to those questions are Barry Sanders who had by far the best year of any Heisman winner and Charles Woodson.
For me the best player without the stiffarm trophy is Tommy Frazier, and its not really close. That Frazier never won was part of the reflected dominance of the team that he played for. From 1992 to 1995 Nebraska was the closest thing to a dynasty that college football has seen. In his four years as a Husker they went 45 and 4 with back to back undefeated seasons. The wins and losses are breathtaking, but it was the routine dominance of those teams that seemed to cast Frazier as a cog in the machine rather than a standout willing his teams to victories. In what was a two horse race from about October onward with Eddie George, Frazier was the cog in the machine and George was willing a completely average Ohio State team to the illusion of greatness. Wilt Chamberlain's most memorable quote was that no one roots for Goliath. Well no one roots for borderline mechanical perfection in athletics either, ask Spain.
Make no mistake about it, those Nebraska teams were absolutely overwhelming. Watching the Huskers of that vintage was a lot like watching Terminator for the first time week after week. And being that I was a young lad of 11 at the time who had just discovered that Terminator 2 existed on TNT or something or other the metaphor was beyond coincidence to me. It felt more like fate. Afterall Judgement Day was set in 1995 and there, on the screen in my living room in 1995 was the Football embodiment of the Terminator. What can I say, I was enthralled with all of it. Those Nebraska teams had an air of inevitability to them.
The opponent didn't matter, where they were playing didn't matter, the fact that every game was on national television didn't matter either. There was a discernible pattern to every game. The opponent would come out strong and put up a fight for a quarter. Nebraska would grind out possessions, not always for scores, but to soften up the defense. after about 20 minutes of seasoning the floodgates would invariably break under and avalanche of Power, Iso, Counter plays. Then the real fun would start and the seemingly endless option variants would be employed to exploit the endless breakdowns from the defense.
Nebraska was methodical and mechanical in the way they broke down defenses time and time again. And at the center of it all orchestrating everything was Tommie Frazier the brightest star in a galaxy of stars for Nebraska. He pulled all the strings for the second best team that I have ever seen.** But it wasn't enough.
** Sorry Nebraska fans, the 2001 Miami team is the best ever.
Eddie George won the Heisman that year. But he wasn't the best player that year, Tommie Frazier was, and in the Fiesta Bowl that year Frazier sent a message to everyone that a mistake had been made.
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