He has never had a nickname such as Oscar or Emmy, but perhaps this is an oversight of the years, like some of the Sam Baughs and Jim Browns who have not won him. One might refer to him as Stud, maybe. Or how about the Hoss Award? For in the 35 years that he has been around, the little bronze fellow, who is only 18 inches tall, who weighs only 50 pounds and who costs only $252, has certainly created his share of melodrama in college football. One speaks, naturally, of the Heisman Memorial Trophy, that old Fordham halfback sculpted on an ebony base which is supposed to go each season to the outstanding player in the U.S. It is now nearing election time again for the Heisman, and about the only thing not being done by the leading candidates—which include Oklahoma's running Steve Owens (see cover) and Purdue's passing Mike Phipps—is to promise to run zig-outs in the Rose Garden until the President ends all wars.
All except the wonderful war for the Heisman, of course, which is waged as earnestly by campus publicity men and by the 1,371 writers and broadcasters who are eligible to vote as by the players themselves. As always, when initial ballots were mailed out to the nation's electors last week, the drums were beating hard and loud. Besides Owens and Phipps, who have been promoted diligently since early September, mournful cries were beginning to be heard on behalf of Ole Miss' Archie Manning, Ohio State's Rex Kern, Kansas State's Lynn Dickey, Florida's John Reaves, UCLA's Dennis Dummit, and even a few defensive stars like Notre Dame's Mike McCoy and Penn State's Mike Reid.
Radio broadcasters from these respective areas have begun to use the names of their candidates so repetitiously it is hard to tell whether there is a game in progress or just, for instance, Mike McCoy doing calisthenics. " Tulane comes out of the huddle," says the Notre Dame network. "And there's big Mike McCoy down there—looking mean."
At the same time, wire-service stories in various sectors are managing to work in the names of their heroes in the first paragraphs whether they have anything to do with the news or not. Kansas State zonked Oklahoma four million to nothing, et cetera, but by gosh, folks, Steve Owens got his usual 100 yards rushing.
The outpouring of publicity releases for the candidates dwells upon the suitable quotes of opposing coaches and pro scouts, which of course help the campaign. Northwestern's Alex Agase says of Purdue's Mike Phipps, "He's got everything—arm, poise, strength, quickness, speed. He's the best college quarterback I've seen in my coaching career."
Purdue frames that. And if Phipps doesn't wind up with the coveted award, as both Bob Griese and Leroy Keyes did not, the world may see Purdue Publicity Director Karl Klages stow away on Apollo 12.
One of the fascinating things about the 1969 race is that there are so many deserving winners without a clear favorite. It is not a year like the last—when USC's O.J. Simpson had it all the way. It is a difficult year for the electors who are divided across the country in five sections, East, South, Midwest, Southwest and Far West.
By the Nov. 25 deadline, they will be asked to vote for the players—1, 2, 3—in order of preference. Here are the front-runners:
? Steve Owens of Oklahoma. His team has lost a couple, but there is no rule that says a Heisman winner has to go unbeaten, although 16 of the 34 in the past have played on either undefeated teams or teams which won some kind of mythical national championship. Owens' big claim is his three-year career. As a sophomore he gained 808 yards, and last year he bulled and bounced for 1,536. With 881 so far, he is a sure bet to set a new NCAA career mark, and he needs only two more touchdowns in his last four games to break Glenn Davis' three-year mark of 51.
Owens has already destroyed Gale Sayers' Big Eight rushing record. Three times this season he has scored four touchdowns in a single game. In his last 15 Saturdays, he has gained over 100 yards. To keep that streak going, OU gave him the ball on six consecutive plays in the waning moments against Colorado to pick up his quota. Before the season even started, his teammates were saying Steve "deserved the Heisman" and they were going to try and help him win it, and in Oklahoma's seven games they have done just that.