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Christian McCaffrey defines “outstanding” for 2015

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The 81st winner of college football’s Heisman Trophy will be revealed on Saturday night from New York’s Downtown Athletic Club. Voting is already completed and the top three are known.

They are Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Florida State fans thought Dalvin Cook was deserving of at least being on the stage. So did Cook and he said so. Cook had a chance to rush for 2,000 yards, but injuries forced him to miss nearly two games.

Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot had a monster year. So did Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman.

A case can be made with statistics for all three finalists. The winner should be the player that fulfills the criteria originally developed when the award was created1935 (it officially became known as the Heisman Trophy in 1937).

From its own website, Heisman.com, what is supposed to happen on Saturday night is “the Heisman Trophy will be awarded to an athlete designated as the Outstanding College Football Player in the United States.” Period.

There are no other factors provided for consideration. It should be performance-driven with leadership skills complementing the package. End of story.

The term “workhorse” is often over-used, but not in the case of Henry. He thrives on wearing down opposing defenses with his physique (6-3, 240 lbs.) and hard running style on every one of his numerous carries.

The junior from Yulee, Fla. ran for 23 touchdowns and was only 14 rushing yards shy of 2,000, breaking Herschel Walker’s SEC record. He led the nation in both categories and has earned his place on the stage.

Clemson is not in the hunt for a national championship without Watson. This double threat passed for 3,512 yards (16th) and 30 touchdowns (9th).

Watson, a sophomore from Gainesville, Ga., also rushed for 887 yards (3rd among QBs) and 11 touchdowns. He was 9th in total offense.

McCaffrey simply does it all, scoring touchdowns four different ways this season. He was second to Henry in rushing yards with 1,847 and 8 touchdowns. He was second nationally among running backs in receiving yards with 540 and four touchdowns.

The sophomore from Castle Rock, Colo. also threw for two touchdowns and returned a kickoff 98 yards for another. In the statistic of all-purpose yards (offense and kick returns), McCaffrey led the nation with 3,496 yards. Second place was more than 1,000 yards behind.

Media buzz seems to point to Henry walking away with the trophy. While he deserves every bit of respect for what he has done, some of the voters are reportedly adding additional criteria that are not part of the description.

Alabama’s position as No. 2 is said to be used by some to make Henry the slight favorite over McCaffrey. Stanford’s two losses would apparently hurt McCaffrey’s chances.

Remember that the Heisman was created to go to the “Outstanding College Football Player.” It says nothing about the record of the team.

Paul Hornung won the 1956 Heisman Trophy for Notre Dame as dual threat quarterback. The Irish went 2-8 that year.

More recently, Robert Griffin III beat out Alabama’s Trent Richardson despite the Tide winning the national title and Baylor losing three games – two by lopsided margins. Griffin deserved to win.

In the past a team’s record did not seem to matter and it should not this year. Watson and Henry are fantastic football players to be sure.

But this year, Christian McCaffrey is the epitome of the word “outstanding” because he has the total package. Ask USC after what he did to them last Saturday.

McCaffrey may not win, but he should.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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