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What The Heck, Why Not Dudek?
Rick Reilly
December 02, 1985
Do the big names have the right stuff for a Heisman winner? No, but Joltin' Joe Dudek surely does
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December 02, 1985

What The Heck, Why Not Dudek?

Do the big names have the right stuff for a Heisman winner? No, but Joltin' Joe Dudek surely does

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This week's college football stumper is: Does the Downtown Athletic Club have to award a Heisman Trophy every year? Couldn't the DAC just melt this year's down and make somebody a nice Christmas doorstop? Or maybe it could cut the trophy into pieces and hand them out at one big wingding. And now, for Robbie Bosco of Brigham Young, an elbow. Maybe the DAC could save this season's Heisman and give out two some other year. Or give it to Doug Flutie again (page 52). After all, that was one hellacious pass. Or, best of all, the DAC could give the award to Joe Dudek, who might just deserve it.

Dudek you've never heard of. Either Chuck Long or Bo Jackson, whom you have heard of, will win because of the Bert Convy Effect, which states that if enough people see you or read your name often enough, they will eventually forget what made you famous in the first place. Thus, you are famous not for deeds done, but simply for being famous, which is a pretty cushy job.

Enter Bo and Chuck, America's two leading HeismanTrophyCandidates. Bo, running back of Auburn, and Chuck, quarterback of Iowa, are the two leading HeismanTrophyCandidates because their publicity departments named them HeismanTrophyCandidates at the beginning of the year, and like Jr. or Esq., the label became permanently glued to their names. The Heisman race (cough, cough) has been whittled down to these two because of the six primary HeismanTrophyCandidates—Bo, Chuck, Bosco, Keith Byars (Ohio State), Napoleon McCallum (Navy) and Kenneth Davis (TCU)—only Bo and Chuck made it through the season without 1) losing to UTEP, 2) injuring the same foot 11 times, 3) sinking with the ship or 4) suddenly showing up in the Forbes 400 (an NCAA no-no).

It matters not to America that Long hasn't had the best quarterback season in the land or that Jackson hasn't had the best running-back season. What matters is that they are the only two remaining who were supposed to win. So it follows that one of them must win, no?

Yes, unfortunately, but consider:

Bo Jackson? Puh-leeez. In the two games of mortal consequence to Auburn fans this season, Tennessee and Florida, Bo yanked himself out. At Tennessee, he had a knee bruise. Auburn lost. Against Florida, Bo had a thigh bruise. Auburn lost. Whatever happened to being carried off the field, you say? In big games, Bo grabs more bench time than Sandra Day O'Connor.

And a misconduct penalty for anybody who says Jackson could carry Herschel Walker's poetry journal. In the national championship game against Notre Dame in 1981, Walker carried 36 times with a famous subluxated shoulder. Georgia won. Against Clemson his junior year, Walker played with a broken thumb. Georgia won. Jackson, meanwhile, takes Auburn out of the Sugar Bowl with two Bo boo-boos.

As for Long, his talent is formidable, but not unsurpassed. In fact, it is regularly passed, even in his own conference. "Third best," says Bo—Schembechler, that is—who considers Jim Everett of Purdue and Jack Trudeau of Illinois better. And in the big games—a 12-10 win over Michigan and a 22-13 loss to Ohio State—Long didn't score, by land or by air. The Ohio State debacle, in which he threw four interceptions, came later in the same day that Dr. Bo declared himself no go against Florida. With the Heisman on the line, Long pratfalled over it.

Another thing: The plaque announces PRESENTED TO THE OUTSTANDING COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYER IN THE UNITED STATES. Yet no non-Division I player has ever won it. No player from the ACC, the WAC, the MAC or the PCAA has ever won it. No defensive player, interior lineman or kicker has won it. No receiver has won it since 1949. No player from a losing team has gotten it since Paul Hornung did in 1956. In fact, only three times since 1970 has it gone to a player who wasn't on an AP Top 10 team. Also, it's not a one-year award. These days, you need a setup year—a big junior season—to throw your name into the hype ring for the following fall. What the plaque should say is PRESENTED TO THE OUTSTANDING COLLEGE FOOTBALL BACK COMING OFF A GOOD YEAR WHO PLAYED AT ONE OF QUITE A FEW DIVISION I SCHOOLS THAT WIN BIG IN THE UNITED STATES.

That leaves out guys like Ed Marinaro, who broke nearly every NCAA rushing mark while at Cornell from 1969 to '71 yet finished second in the Heisman voting to Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan. "It's not a legitimate award," says Marinaro. "I was criticized because everything I did was in the Ivy League. I dominated the league, but I guess I didn't count." When did he get over losing to Sullivan? "Oh, about a month ago," he says.

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