One of the more amazing factoids to come out during NICKNAME REDACTED's great season was that he was the first LSU player to earn an invite to the finalists' ceremony since Charles Alexander in 1978. It's not like LSU hasn't had some great players in that span, either.
Tommy Hodson probably wasn't going to win the award in 1988 because of that Barry Sanders guy, though an invite wouldn't have killed anybody. Kevin Faulk is arguably the most underrated player on college football history. He retired as the all-time SEC leader in all-purpose yards (now second only to Tim Tebow) and second all-time in SEC rushing yards to Herschel Walker. Yet he only made the All-America team as a punt returner and he's largely been forgotten as an all-time great.
Faulk is so disrespected that when Tebow was near breaking the SEC touchdown record, CBS put up an info graphic that Marshall Faulk was second all-time in touchdowns in the SEC, despite Kevin holding that distinction and Marshall having played for San Diego St. which, last time I checked, is not in the SEC. But Kevin Faulk had the misfortune of A) playing for some average teams and B) going to school at the same time as Peyton Manning. That's right Michigan fans, there were two SEC players better than Woodson in 1997.
However, one LSU player deserved a Heisman and not only didn't win the award, but didn't even finish in the top ten of the voting. That is the perpetually overlooked greatness that is JaMarcus Russell. In case you forgot how great Russell's career was at LSU, here is a refresher.
Now, let's play a game of Choose That Quarterback:
Quarterback A: 203/311, 2542 yards, 65.3%, 8.2 yds/att, 30 TD, 6 INT
Quarterback B: 232/342, 3129 yards, 67.8%, 9.1 yds/att, 28 TD, 8 INT
Pretty close, right? Quarterback B holds the edge, though, in total yards, yards/attempt, and completion percentage. Unless you think Quarterback A's small edge in TD/INT ratio is a game changer, Quarterback B had better numbers.
You can see where I'm going with this, right? Quarterback A is your Heisman winner, Troy Smith. Quarterback B is JaMarcus Russell. But, of course Smith had all of those other advantages, right?
Smith had all of those rushing yards, right? Smith rushed for 204 yards on 72 attempts. He had 1 touchdown and got sacked 18 times. Russell rushed for 142 yards on 52 attempts, scoring once and getting sacked 16 times. Smith barely gets an edge.
What about leadership? Smith did guide a loaded Ohio St. to an undefeated regular season and a Big Ten title. Russell guided a loaded LSU team a BCS Bowl, and he orchestrated three fourth quarter comebacks on the year, and it would've been four had the officials in Auburn not been terrible (yes, I'm still angry about that game).
Troy Smith had similar numbers to Russell and equivalent intangibles, but the Downtown Athletic Club and the rest of the media fell all over themselves to give him a Heisman while studiously ignoring Russell's season. Russell had a slightly better season than Smith and, once again, didn't even finish in the top ten of the Heisman voting.
Wonder why LSU fans have a persecution complex? Probably because of the persecution.
JaMarcus Russell was the best player in college football in 2006. He got robbed of the accolades, and deserved at least an invite to New York. Just put it on the list of grievances for LSU fans. Some programs just get things handed to them, other programs have to earn every little scrap of respect.
JaMarcus Russell deserved better. Troy Smith is walking around with Russell's Heisman Trophy.
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