The five top vote getters in the annual Heisman Trophy election were invited to New York City to take part in the 75th anniversary of the award that goes to the best football player of the season. Dick Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman winner and twenty-five more recent winners of the extremely prestigious award were on the stage of the Nokia Theater in Times Square to support the latest recipient of the trophy. Mark Ingram, a sophomore running back at the University of Alabama, was named the winner over second place finisher Toby Gerhart of Stanford University in the closest vote in the history of the award. Ingram received 1,304 votes, only 24 more than the runner-up. The previous most narrow win occurred in 1985 when Bo Jackson received 45 more votes than Chuck Long.
The winner became very emotional during his remarks accepting the trophy. He said, “I’m just so excited to bring Alabama its first Heisman winner.” He was inclusive in giving thanks. He cited God, his family, teammates, coaches, and trainers. At the close, he finally mentioned, “The teachers at our school because they’re important too.” At a press conference held at the Marriott Marquis hotel after the ceremony, Ingram explained the reason for his show of emotion, “I was overwhelmed, really excited. It was really important that I could do this for them .It’s a dream come true.”
Ingram is only the third sophomore to win the Heisman. Interestingly, sophomores have been the winners for the last three years. Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman winner, finished third in the voting in 2008 and was fifth in the balloting this weekend. Ingram is a second generation star college football player.. His father, Mark, played at Michigan State, and was a first round draft choice of the New York Giants in 1987.The father is currently in the Queens Correctional Facility awaiting sentencing in federal prison for money laundering and bank fraud charges. Although he credits his father and other family members for “making me the man I am today,” Ingram said he would not visit his father while he was in the city. When asked if he would visit after the season, he replied. “I’m not sure.” Nick Saban, head coach at Alabama, was an assistant coach of Ingram’s father at Michigan State. Saban said Ingram’s selection “fills a void”at Alabama, which has won 12 National Championships and 22 SEC titles.
Toby Gerhart is also an interesting youn. Gerhart is on the baseball and football teams at Stanford University. The outfielder and running back prefers football, “Football is the one in my heart.” Despite dedicating the time to be able to excel in two varsity sports, Gerhart is taking 21 credits this semester. He is majoring in management science and engineering. When complimented by a reporter for being a true student-athlete (with the emphasis on student), Gerhart responded, “Thank you sir, I take pride in that.”
Ndamukong Suh finished fourth in the balloting. His name and his ethnic background may not normally appear in a football box score, but he is one of the best players in the college game. Suh’s father was born in Cameroon and his mother in Jamaica. As a youngster he first gravitated to soccer, but now he is a defensive standout at Nebraska. The young man spoke of being in New York City for the first time, “It’s incredible. It’s one thing seeing it on TV and another being here.”He also explained that his mother was against him competing in varsity football because she was afraid he would get hurt. He told his mom, “I won’t get hurt, I’ll be the one hurting others.” He then said, “I was the biggest kid there.” Suh like Gerhart is intent upon succeeding in his studies. His major is mechanical construction engineering.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who finished third, and Ingram will be meeting in the national championship game in early January. Both, as expected, spoke of the game’s paramount importance to them. McCoy stated, “I won some previous awards this week. The most important thing to me is to win the national championship.” Ingram’s words were similar to Mc Coy’s, “We have unfinished business. If we have a great game, that means a lot more to me.”
The Heisman is named in honor pf William Heisman, a long-time and very influential college football coach in the early part of the 20th century. The trophy was originally named the Downtown Athletic Club trophy. After the death of Heisman, then athletic director of the DAC, in 1936, the trophy was renamed in his memory. It was presented every December at the DAC from its inception in 1935 through 2001. After the 9/11 attack, and the bankruptcy of the DAC in 2002 it was moved. It is now presented at the Nokia Theater.