The real truth about the Heisman Trophy

If somebody asked Tim Tebow about the “H-Word” these days, he’ll most likely respond, “Heisman or humility?”

Tim Tebow gets it.

And Tim Tebow ought to get IT!

Unless he is carried off on a stretcher in the first quarter against Florida State and the Gators lose, he will win the 73rd Heisman award — or there should be a Congressional investigation.

Dennis Dixon going down after a serious knee injury, out for the season may have improved the chances of the Florida quarterback to win college football’s most convented award, but he won’t waver from his stoic position about team over self.

The “H-Word” is spoken in hushed words around Urban Meyer, who considers putting self above team both treasonous and poisonous. As much as possible, Meyer discourages talk about this distinguished achievement because he impelled to do so. Meyer gets paid to win football games, not Heismans. When I asked him in the post-game interview if Tebow deserved the award, Meyer responded as I had expected:

“That’s a great question, but I’m not going to address it because I really don’t know. That’s an award that, presumably, goes to the best football player and I don’t really know …”

Times like these put coaches in a bind.

Ordinarily, something as spectacular as Tebow’s individual achievements would be enough for celebration. On Saturday, the sophomore southpaw pitched three more touchdown passes and ran for one, becoming the only man in college football history to run and pass for at least 20 in a single season. We’re talking national college football milestones here.

That “20-20” stat might have been just the piece d’ resistance for the voters to pick Tebow. Yet Meyer didn’t really make much of it, other than to say it was “unbelievable.” Tebow’s coach not only declined to campaign for his quarterback, but was critical of his play.

“Tim didn’t play his best game,” Meyer said. “I’ll be critical of Tim, because he needs a little critical analysis once in a while.”

Tebow parroted his coach, calling it “not my best game,” even though he accounted for four touchdowns with a career-high 25 completions for 338 yards passing. He also had 31 yards rushing, putting his total offense at 3,619 yards for the season. This was in addition to Tebow having added to his SEC records, breaking the mark for rushing touchdowns with his 20th and tossing three more for a season total of 26, running his conference touchdown total to 46.

So by virtue of Dixon’s fate and this new “20-20” credential, Tebow had risen to forefront. The Florida quarterback was watching the game Thursday night, saying he felt badly for Dixon and “I prayed for him.”

No matter how the coach and the player responded at this point to the questions about the Heisman, it wasn’t going to come out exactly right.

Tebow said after Saturday’s 59-20 win over Florida Atlantic that he had no thoughts about the Heisman as the Gators prepared for arch-rival FSU this week. “This is probably the greatest rivalry we have,” said Tebow, who grew up as a rabid Gator fan. “My dad would probably say Georgia, but I’d say FSU.”

Knowing Tebow, I almost believe him.

Can’t say as I blame Meyer, but there ought to be a better way for coaches to speak on behalf of their players without disrupting team goals and creating jealousy among other players. So here’s my solution for the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City:

Hold the final vote for the Heisman the week after the national championship game when the season is over. What bodes against that is that the Heisman is the award for the best football player during the regular season and not an MVP award — the same as the Cy Young Award is in baseball. I like that part about the Heisman, but the truth of the matter is that the Heisman has become a bit of an MVP award anyway.

Otherwise, why would those who oppose Tebow as the choice to win the 73rd Heisman keep bringing up things like Florida’s three losses and him being only sophomore (Bob Davie, please call home). Balderdash!

A freshman or sophomore has never won. Reportedly, only 13 of the previous 71 winners have come from teams with three or more losses, including Paul Hornung of Notre Dame (1956), Jim Plunkett of Stanford (1970), Ty Detmer of BYU (1990) and Jay Berwanger of Chicago (1935).

On the other hand, Berwanger’s team and most of the others in those early days only played eight games as opposed to the 12 to 14 outings by college teams today. Florida, for instance, could wind up 10-3 with a Top Ten ranking.

The Heisman is an award for college football’s best player in the regular season, period, but one cannot ignore the player’s body of work or success during the season. A loss to FSU Saturday, however, might eliminate Tebow’s chances of winning the Heisman. So in that sense, it really is a team award.

Heisman voters should also take into account, when considering these factors, that sophomores didn’t used to win it in the old days because they didn’t play as freshmen.

And if they want to consider a player’s body of work, they should remember that Tebow was instrumental in Florida winning the 2006 national championship, accounting for 13 touchdowns, eight of them rushing, in his role as the money player when short yardage was needed.

I am one of 872 Heisman voters in the media and have been for the better part of my sports writing career. I will likely be voting again this year, although they never tell you for sure until you receive your ballot in the mail about this time of year. (I have been receiving pre-voting information so far and expect to vote again in about 10 days.)

Tebow would have be to be kidnapped for him not to play well enough Saturday and become the seventh player from the state of Florida (Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta were the others) to win the Heisman and the seventh from the SEC (Frankie Sinkwich, Billy Cannon, Spurrier, Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Wuerffel). He would also be the third player on the trophy with the first letter of his last name starting with “T” (Testaverde, Torretta).

I expect to be there Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Nokia Theater on Times Square in New York when they announced the name “Tim Tebow.”

When that happens, I think we will finally know the answer to his question about the H-Word:

“Heisman or Humility?”

Let’s be honest — you already know the answer.