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Derrick Henry earned Heisman, but is trophy losing its luster?

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When the Heisman Trophy winner is announced each year, those who care either celebrate the winner or wonder why someone else was not chosen. There was some of that this year, but there were those who wondered why more non-winners were not invited to the ceremony on Saturday.

Alabama’s Derrick Henry, as expected, was the winner in a reasonably close vote. However, Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson had legitimate statistics to be selected. So did a few others.

In the end, Henry won fair and square. Five of 6 voting regions put Henry at the top. There can be little controversy when a guy who broke Herschel Walker’s rushing record was chosen the winner. The Far West region voted for McCaffrey.

The first subplot developed when only three finalists were announced. In recent years, the normal procedure saw five invited to New York for the presentation.

Among those excluded was Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who scored more touchdowns in the history of major college football. During Saturday’s CBS telecast of the Army vs. Navy game, announcers Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson took time to lament the exclusion of Reynolds. Reynolds finished a distant fifth, earning 20 first-place votes.

Also missing from the invite list was Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. Despite having similar statistics and accounting for one more touchdown (42-41) than Watson, Mayfield finished more than 800 points behind third-place Watson.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette finished sixth after being a prime contender for most of the season. A late three-game slump, where he averaged fewer than 75 rushing yards per game, cost him a chance. One of those games was a head-to-head matchup with Henry, where Fournette had 31 yards while Henry piled up 210 yards and three touchdowns.

FSU’s Dalvin Cook and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott had terrific seasons and had one other thing in common: They spoke candidly to the media.

Elliott had the highly publicized outburst immediately after the Buckeyes’ final-play loss to Michigan State, where he carried the ball only 12 times. Cook honestly answered a question about his Heisman chances, saying he felt he should win.

Nothing wrong with Cook’s answer, but some of the voters may have dismissed him because of that. Cook finished seventh with seven first-place votes. Missing nearly two games didn’t help, either.

Elliott’s incendiary comments almost assuredly cost him support. His numbers also did not match Henry’s, making that the significant factor leading to his eighth-place finish.

It is reasonable to wonder whether enough Heisman voters take their responsibility seriously. How many cast ballots merely by looking at a stat sheet?

How else can they explain selecting 13 quarterbacks in a span of 14 years until Saturday? Only two Alabama running backs (Mark Ingraham the other) interrupted the string.

Really? No wide receivers since 1991? Only one defensive player (Charles Woodson of Michigan) in the trophy’s 81-year history?

Is the best player ALWAYS a member of a Power 5 conference program? With all of that in mind, the trophy may be losing some of its luster

Come September, the speculating will begin again. Without question, Cook will be in the conversation.

He will need to do three things to have a chance: put up some gaudy numbers, stay healthy and perhaps keep his thoughts about the Heisman to himself.

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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