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2013 Heisman Trophy winner by Definition

How does one define “The Nation’s Outstanding Football Player”? According to the official Heisman website, “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” As the single most recognizable award in college football, we should all hope that Heisman voters take this definition to heart and apply this definition provided by the Heisman trust when voting for the players they deem worthy of the award.

Breaking the definition down, the term college football player allows any player competing in college football at any level to be voted for. The term Outstanding requires that the player perform at a level well above the norm, although no definition is given to place any requirements to determine what qualifies as outstanding. The phrase ‘exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity’ thus carries the majority of impact on how the award is defined.

A number of players are being touted for the Heisman Award, and these players all qualify to be considered based on the definition provided by the Heisman Trust. To be considered for this award is an award in itself. Having your coach and family travel with you to New York for the Heisman awards is recognition of your preparation and performance that literally thousands of players across the country pursue with very similar effort through out their careers. The performance of your team figures into your presence in New York and being able to perform at the highest level when the lights are the brightest makes a major difference. Would Johnny Manziel have won the Trophy last year if he had played an average game last year in Tuscaloosa ?

McCarron LSU2013

A.J. McCarron leads the Tide against LSU in Tuscaloosa, AL.

Last night in Tuscaloosa in Alabama’s SEC West showdown with LSU, A.J. McCarron added to his resume as a Heisman candidate. By his own admission he is more concerned about team awards and accomplishments than the life-changing Trophy award that he could earn this December, but the Crimson Tide’s decisive win over LSU can only enhance his credentials.  Let’s look at his record.

Career Highlights

• 2012 AP third team All-American
• 2012 Second team All-SEC
• 2012 Finalist for Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award
• 33-2 (.943) as a starter at Alabama
• Leads nation (173.08) in passing efficiency
• Alabama record 26 passing touchdowns in 2012
• Went 291 pass attempts (2011-12) without throwing an interception (second-longest streak in SEC history)

2009 (REDSHIRT) : He redshirted during his first season at Alabama.

2010 (FRESHMAN): McCarron played in all 13 games, eight of which were at the quarterback position … was the primary holder on field goals and extra point attempts … threw for 389 yards on 30-for-48 passing with three touchdowns … posted a 151.20 quarterback rating.

2011 (SOPHOMORE): McCarron started all 13 of the Crimson Tide’s games in 2011 at quarterback … showed poise, confidence and excellent decision-making while leading the Alabama offense … posted a 12-1 record and won the national championship in his first year as the starting quarterback … completed 66.8 percent of his passes, which was the second-highest percentage in school history … threw for 2,634 yards and 16 touchdowns … had just five interceptions … LSU (BCS National Championship Game): Earned Offensive MVP honors after throwing for 234 yards on 23-of-34 passing … did not throw an interception while completing passes to seven different receivers.

2012 (JUNIOR): Veteran signalcaller who led the nation with 173.08 passer efficiency rating … one of five finalists for Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award … semifinalist for Davey O’Brien and Maxwell awards … AP third team All-American … consensus second team All-SEC … has a school-record 26 touchdown passes in 2012 … went 291 pass attempts between interceptions (2011-12), second-longest streak in SEC history … 24-2 as the Alabama starter (tied for fifth-most wins in school history and second in win percentage at .923) … boasts career average of one interception every 82.8 pass attempts and one pick every 95.3 passes in 2012 (both on pace to be SEC records) … has completed 66.8 percent of his passes (191-of-286) during junior season for 2,669 yards (42 completions of 20-plus) … LSU: Battled through back contusion to lead game-winning, 5-play, 72-yard drive in only 43 seconds for 21-17 come-from-behind victory … 4-of-5 on final drive and found T.J. Yeldon for 28-yard screen play and the winning score … went 8-of-9 for 109 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing) in the waning seconds of each half … capped two-minute drill at end of the first half with nine-yard touchdown run … extended his consecutive passes without an interception to 289. Georgia: Found Cooper for 45-yard touchdown with 3:15 remaining, on what proved to be the winning play in 32-28 victory over the Bulldogs … went 13-of-21 for 162 yards, with one interception … also rushed for 16 yards, including a 22-yard run shortly before halftime (leading to a field goal). Notre Dame: Threw for 264 yards on 20-of-28 passing with four touchdowns as he helped the Crimson Tide to its second straight national championship.

2013 (SENIOR) Nine games into the season, A.J. has thrown for 2041 yards with 19 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. He has 159 completions out of 229 attempts, a percentage of 69.4. His QB Rating is a lofty 169.1, but most importantly, his team is undefeated and ranked # 1 in the country. 

(Thanks to, the University of Alabama Athletic website for information on A.J. McCarron)

Nick Saban’s nomination for McCarron reads as follows: “All he does is win and does what his team needs for him to do. I think the guy is the best quarterback in the country. People want to look at statistics all the time and base the quarterback on that.” Saban would have to qualify as an expert on such things, being the first name mentioned when media members discuss the top football coach in the country. Saban is also known as the best recognizer of talent in the country, so for him to tell us that McCarron is the best QB in the country is high praise indeed.

Saban 2013LSU

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban has seen A.J. McCarron turn into an elite college quarterback.

To look at Alabama’s team achievements during McCarron’s tenure as the starting quarterback is revealing as well.

2011 12-1        2nd place SEC West, BCS National Champions (21-0 over LSU, where A.J. was the Offensive MVP)

2012 13-1        1st place SEC West, SEC Champions (32-38 over Georgia with McCarron throwing the game-winning TD to Amari Cooper with 3:15 left in the game), BCS National Champions (42-14 over Notre Dame, where he was 20 for 28 with 4 touchdowns)

2013 9-0          Currently in 1st place in the SEC West with 3 games left to play.


Detractors may point to other player’s gaudy statistics, but the most impressive statistic that McCarron has is a negative one. His team has lost games twice when he was the starter at Quarterback. This year his team beat defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies in a head-to-head battle, and for good measure came from 14 points behind to score 35 unanswered points and throwing for 344 yards and 4 TDs, including the game-winner. As usual, A.J. did not commit any turnovers and controlled the game when his offense was on the field.

By definition, the Heisman is not a career award, but McCarron’s performance in 2011 and 2012 provide us insight into his tendencies and his consistency and improvement to become the player he is today. The Heisman award definition of ‘the pursuit of excellence with integrity’ fits A.J. McCarron to an ‘A’. When asked about something that happens to the team that could be considered negative, A.J. almost ignores the questions and indicates that ‘we were working together on the sideline on how we could improve during the game’. When questioned about Johnny Manziel’s whereabouts, wake-up time and subsequent absence at the Manning Passing Academy over the summer in Louisiana, McCarron did not have much to say, preferring to let the parties actually involved in the situation handle the questions directly and without interference from him. That sounds a lot like integrity. A.J. also has friendly relationships with young people battling cancer across the state of Alabama and reaches out through social media to call attention to people’s struggles with cancer and other illnesses.

Oustanding college football player? Without question, A.J. McCarron is the team leader on the offensive side of the ball for the best team in the country. He makes plays to win games and avoids making mistakes that lose games. Pursuit of Excellence with Integrity? Going from an incoming freshman who was 6’4” and weighed 189 pounds who couldn’t squat 225 pounds in his first team workout, A.J. now squats almost 600 pounds and weighs 210 pounds. McCarron is one of the hardest workers in the Bama weight room and according to his coaches “gets us in the right play most of the time”. To nearly triple your squat performance and develop an understanding of your team’s offense requires a tremendous amount of discipline and commitment by a young adult who has other interests right around the corner.

Some football fans and experts may prefer guys who throw for 400 yards a game and snake through the defensive backfield of their opponents. If you ask Nick Saban who he would vote for Heisman this season, you will almost certainly hear A.J. McCarron’s name. If you had the gumption to ask why, Saban’s answer would be short and to the point. “He’s a winner.” He should be the Heisman Trophy winner for 2013 if the voters follow the definition of the award as it is listed by the organization that sponsors the award.

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21 Comments  comments 

21 Responses

  1. Tom McLaughlin

    I have followed college football for 45 years. Heisman trophy winners during this time frame have for the most part been deserving of the award. However, sometimes winners are less deserving than some of the young men that are also considered. Many of the “experts” promote their favorite starting immediately after the previous years award. This seems to sway some of the weaker minded voters and becomes more of a popularity contest. There are far too many “Talking Heads” spewing too many personal opinions on too many college football shows. The voting
    membership needs to at least read the first paragraph not statistics.

    • Tom, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I wrote the article in an effort to explain why an outstanding leader and person who doesn’t have the top statistics at his position really meets the definition of the award more than a player who is in the Top 3 nationally strictly from a statistical standpoint.

      I happen to think that the Heisman should be a January award rather than a December award, but the Heisman trust has not asked my opinion yet.

      Thank you for your interest. I think there are a lot more out there like us, but we need to speak up and be heard.

  2. He has a chance to be the most accomplished quarterback at a school that has 15 national championships and three different Super Bowl winners at the position. Nothing else really needs to be said…

  3. Jarrod

    Great great article. He is by far the most important player on the best college football team in America. His leadership is second to none. If he actually played an entire game his statistics would be right up there with Winston, who is supposedly the front runner. What an unselfish, team-oriented QB we have at our university.

  4. brandon

    I think he deserves it. Not to many college athletes today do you hear about them doing positive things inside the community.

  5. I like AJ and I feel he is deserving of a Heisman. No doubt!!!

  6. me

    i love that people want to say AJ is a product of the team around him…someone please show me a Heisman winner who came from a losing team…ALL great players are products of the system they play in..thats why they go to those teams…AJ wouldn’t have success at Oregon and BAMA wouldn’t be undefeated with our backup QB starting regardless of how great the skill players are around him…AJ has done nothing but win, lead us to back to back championships and won the 2011 one with his arm against the best defense in the country that year…if AJ was quarterbacking 10 years ago before everyone got enamored with DT qbs, he would be in the discussion easily, but bc he doesnt run around like Manziel (which he has to do bc the play breaks down most times) he’s not getting credit…its a shame and regardless if he wins it or not, AJ will go down as one of the best qbs in college football and BAMA history…ROLL TIDE AND THANKS FOR EVERYTHING AJ!!!

  7. Ryan Rodriguez

    You guys know that Winston and Johnny Football don’t play whole games either right? Or that C.J. Mosely was probably the most impressive player on the field in the biggest game? Or that when Bama needs to win, they run? McCarron is very good, and possibly great, but wins aren’t the best way to judge if a QB is good, because many people play great even when their team loses. So, please stop, acting like it’s a crime that he might not (probably won’t) win. Fair or unfair, if someone does everything for their team like JFF, they are going to win based on sheer numbers. And who cares about the integrity part, their is probably an award for that McCarron or another deserving player can win, the Heisman is now about play, not some 1930s definition made for when college football was an amateur sport.

    • Thanks for expressing your opinion. The critical part of McCarron is that when his team needs him to make plays, he has failed to do so once in the last 27 games. Alabama lost that game, but has not lost another in that span of games.

      I would like to see a defensive Heisman award, and C.J. Mosley would win it this year. Defenders seldom have the statistics to back up their performance. Often times offenses run away from a top-flight defender, which reduces their statistics.

    • Greg

      when we really need to win games, AJ’s throwing the ball if that’s what’s needed. i.e. LSU and Georgia last year with game winning final drives, and also TAMU this year.

    • Wayne Phillips

      Johnny didn’t get it done against Bama though did he?

      • Ryan Rodriguez

        You can say Johnny didn’t. I would say 560 total yards against the top defense is more than getting it done. Unless he starts playing defense, there is nothing he can do about his team getting shredded on that side of the ball. Clearly you missed my point that QB wins are low on the totem pole of how I judge quarterbacks, and really, how they should be judged. McCarron played very well that game, but when your line is opening up highway lanes for your running backs, it makes it tough for me to pick out one player on that team as being more outstanding than any other player. I’m sure the embarrassment of riches hurts McCarron, Yeldon, Cooper, Kouandjio, and any other player on Bama’s offense in their quest for individual awards, but regardless, I don’t really think you can say McCarron is the best football player in America. Especially when Andrew Luck couldn’t win the award.

  8. Nickdanger

    Is this another Gino Torreta situation? There is no doubt AJ is an excellent QB and a huge asset to Bama. He has not been in many situations where he has had to bring his team from a deep hole. I am not sure if he could do that. I am not a fan of that A&M QB, but that kid is dynamic and is very capable of getting his team out if holes. FSU’s QB has passed the test in his few worthy match ups. Would live to see how he does vs Bama if they hook up. I would not be shocked if AJ wins the Heisman, if he does it’ll be based on his career. But IMO he is not the best player in the country.

  9. Greg

    As long as its not Johnny Football again. The kid is amazing and probably the best player in the country but does he even come close on the “integrity” portion of the definition for the Heisman?

  10. RollTideMike

    Ryan Rodriguez lost all of my respect when he said, “And who cares about the integrity part”. First impressions are everything and that tells me you’re not much of a man if integrity isn’t important.

    Judge the award based on the definition of the award, regardless of when it was defined. Based on that definition, I believe AJ would be the front runner, but regardless should be top 3 and invited to NYC. No one is more critical to their teams success, although they may be equal. No one has a higher passing efficiency, so there go the arguments about AJ not being a passer. Game manager? I love having a game manager as good as AJ. No one manages a game better than Peyton Manning and not many would argue there’s a better QB in the NFL. I’ll take the game manager on our team any day. And even if you do call him a game manager, he’s still “outstanding” and deserving of the Heisman.

  11. BamaGirl69

    I also love this article. I never knew the “qualifications” for the award, but I’m glad someone took the time to define it. If AJ doesn’t fit the integrity part, then it would be hard to say that anyone qualified in that area. His team follows his lead, but they couldn’t preform without him. He brings out the best in BAMA’s offensive line. But AJ is the oil that makes the machine run smoothly. And that team is #1 in the nation right now. He is a top-notch, outstanding QB and all around player. Gaudy numbers are just that. Bama has never been a team who runs up the score against beaten opponents. If they did, AJ’s numbers would probably be as astronaumical as Johhny Manzeil’s. AJ McCarron more than deserves this award in my opinion. I wish him the best of luck!

    • BamaGirl69 -

      Thanks for the compliment. I really thought that A.J. met the definition more than any other player up to this point. My hope is that he will play to the best of his ability and the Tide will win the 3 games that will be played before the Heisman voting is closed and the voters will understand and appreciate what he has done.

      I have always heard that statistics are for losers. I don’t agree completely with that theory, but I do understand that statistics don’t tell the whole story of a player.

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