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? Mike McCoy of Notre Dame, Mike Reid of Penn State and Jack Tatum of Ohio State. Notre Dame seems always to find a candidate even if it has to dig into the trenches. Huge Mike McCoy, the tackle, is this year's choice, seeing as how there are no Johnny Lujacks or even Terry Hanrattys around. McCoy is properly ferocious, just like Penn State's Mike Reid, another interior lineman being pushed by a good team without a backfield hopeful. McCoy makes hundreds of tackles, and he blocked the punt which enabled the Irish to tie USC. Reid makes the big play which keeps preserving Penn State's unbeaten record. But no interior demon has won the trophy, and Iowa's Alex Karras, in 1957, is the only one who came close. For that matter, only two ends—Notre Dame's Leon Hart and Yale's Larry Kelley—have ever succeeded. And McCoy and Reid, meanwhile, have run out of good teams to be ferocious against. Tatum is something different. He's a cornerback-linebacker who simply destroys people, managing to be everywhere at once. He is the soul of a Buckeye defense that is just as spectacular as Kern's offense. But if any of the defenders come through, the publicity man involved—Roger Valdiserri of the Irish, Jim Tarman at Penn State or Wilbur Snypp at Columbus—ought to be canonized.
If John Reaves of Florida were a senior, or even a junior, the Gators' quarterback might well be the favorite, but he is a sophomore, and no sophomore has ever won. Reaves has taken a team that was regarded as no higher than a swamp and turned it into a mountain. He started the season by throwing five touchdown passes in the 59-34 upset of Houston, and he has kept it up. As of last week, when he and Florida were finally beaten for the first time by Auburn, he had a whopping 22 touchdown passes for the year (six more than Spurrier threw in his Heisman year), and he leads the nation in total offense.
No one knows precisely why or how the Heisman Trophy, presented by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York and named for John W. Heisman, inventor of the center snap, folks, became the football award with the most prestige. The glory that has come to the Heisman certainly isn't due to good old John W.'s coaching record at Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Penn, Washington & Jefferson and Rice. No one ever put him up there in the Knute Rockne- Howard Jones-Frank Leahy-Bernie Bierman-Bear Bryant league. And it surely can't be due to the influence of the Downtown Athletic Club, a 35-story building down on West Street which rattles and creaks with 4,000 members, 450 employees, four bowling alleys, six squash courts, a gym, a swimming pool, and is absolutely unheard of and unthought about by nonmembers between annual Heisman dinners.
Possibly it is because the Heisman came first, in 1935, two years ahead of its closest rivals, the Camp and the Maxwell awards, and 15 years ahead of the UPI. Possibly, too, it is because of New York City and the glitter that people believe to be there. As far back as 1938 when a tiny quarterback named Davey O'Brien was the winner, a trainload of rich Texans came to town with him and they all boarded a fire engine in their Stetsons and rode up and down the avenues, waving and celebrating. In this spirit the Heisman winner is toasted all over town during his stay, and the dinner is broadcast locally, all of this being part of how the New York press rediscovers college football every early December.
Technically, the trophy, which was conceived by a sculptor named Frank Eliscu, who did use a Fordham halfback as a model, is awarded to the player piling up the most points, with three going for each first-place vote, two for second and one for third. Only legitimate writers and broadcasters receive ballots, the DAC claims. The number of votes per section depends on the number of accredited universities and colleges in that area, which does give the East and Midwest an edge. No one sees the votes except the club's executive secretary, Austin Melvin, who keeps them locked in a special room for which he alone holds the key. It takes him a week to count them, and only he knows the result, but he is proud to say that there has never been a "leak" before the club's official announcement, which this time will come between the hours of 12 and 1 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Nov. 25.
It is interesting to note that the dinner is scheduled for Dec. 4, which is two days before Texas meets Arkansas in what might be the game of the year, but, oh well, they don't have any solid candidates, which is a stroke of luck for the Downtown Athletic Club.
The weight that publicity men have had on the selection is probably exaggerated. Most often, the winners have played their way to the award. Nevertheless, the campus flacks like to think they sometimes win for their boys. Glancing back over the years, it seems astonishing that certain players managed to outpoll others. The list of nonwinners is just as imposing as the list of winners, among them being Sam Baugh, Jim Brown, Marshall Goldberg, Charley Trippi, Babe Parilli, Gale Sayers and Joe Namath, to mention a few.
The best jobs have always been done by Notre Dame, as one might guess. The mystique of the Irish not only secured the Heisman for Angelo Bertelli when he played but five games (before getting called to duty by the Marines in 1943), it won for John Huarte in 1964 over such supercandidates as Tucker Frederickson, Dick Butkus, Craig Morton, Jerry Rhome, Sayers and Namath. But best of all, the Notre Dame magic got Paul Hornung the trophy in 1956 while his team was in the process of losing 0-40 to Oklahoma, 14-47 to Michigan State, 7-33 to Navy and 8-48 to Iowa, and finishing a beautiful 2-8 for the year.
"This was the year," says Callahan, reminiscing like a fight manager, "that Harold Keith at OU made the mistake of trying to sell an interior lineman, Jerry Tubbs. At midseason he switched to Tommy McDonald, but it was too late. The East went for Jim Brown, and the South went for Johnny Majors at Tennessee. I got the Midwest. Tubbs and McDonald cut each other up."