Widespread acknowledgment that he is the best could shake the ridiculous Heisman system to its core. A lineman? An offensive lineman? Perhaps to spice Pace's candidacy, Cooper has offered to put him in the offensive backfield in the Buckeyes' goal line offense, a la William (Refrigerator) Perry with the Chicago Bears a decade ago. Pace has thus far declined, but not out of humility. "I'll go back there if they give me the ball," he says. "I don't want to be a blocking back. I can do that on the line." A touchdown or two would provide Pace with those two most hollow of Heisman essentials: highlights and statistics. Yet there is something more energizing about a lineman challenging for the crusty award on merit alone.
Three buses waited outside Notre Dame stadium for Pace and Pearson to finish a postgame television appearance. Coaches and players had been spilling from the dressing room for more than 30 minutes, stopping to assess their performances, often laying credit at Pace's feet. "The most gratifying thing was that we dominated the line of scrimmage," said Hollis.
"A couple of times out there, I knew Orlando was pulling across to block," said center Juan Porter. "Now I know he's going to crush his guy every time, which he did, so I'm just thinking I have to clear out or he'll crush me, too."
The cool, satisfied laughter of victory was in the air. Pearson and Pace—the running back and his escort—returned from the interview in a security van. As the big man walked toward the bus, he stopped to embrace his mother. She shed a small tear for her son's continued good health and survival and held him tightly. A man shoved a ticket stub in front of Orlando, asking for an autograph. Pace borrowed a reporter's pen and at that same moment he laughed out loud, throwing his head back. "Nice to be recognized," he said. Then he signed his name on the ticket in neat, flowing script.