The Heisman Case for Robinson

According to the Downtown Athletic Club, the purpose for the Heisman Trophy is to award "the most outstanding college football player." This is a pretty subjective and wide-open definition for an award.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, outstanding is defined as "standing out from a group: marked by eminence and distinction." Again, a term that is not only subjective, but can have a myriad of qualifying criteria associated with it.

To some, the term "outstanding" as related to the Heisman Trophy is primarily about on-field performance, to others it is about the impact an indivdual has on his team and to others it is about the intangibles (for example: leadership, determination, courage and class).

In terms of football, though, there are a few elements that can qualify a player as "outstanding" and set them apart from their counterparts in the sport. Although the Heisman is a subjective award, there are several areas a voter can logically look at to help determine which way to cast their vote. In most cases a voter likely has a mental algorithm which weighs this criteria set to determine their vote outcome.

Among the areas that most seem to consider are:

Statistics: Nothing compares two individual players better than a head-to-head statistical breakdown. Although there are several factors that can impact statistics — for example: competition, weather, surrounding talent, coaching, etc. — it is the most tangible method available to compare players and their impact on the game of football.

Several Heisman winners have won the award primarily on statistics, like Marcus Allen, Mike Rozier, Barry Sanders and Rashaan Salaam, all of whom gained 2,000 yards in a season, a feat which catapulted them to the honor.

Impact: The pure impact an indivdual player has on their team can play a major role in a player winning the Heisman. What would Nebraska have been like in 2001 without their "do everything" quarterback Eric Crouch?

The importance a player has on their team throughout the course of a stellar season can also help them live up to the billing of "outstanding player."

Intangibles: These can be wide in scope and variety and include traits like leadership, poise, confidence, sportsmanship and versatility, among others.

For example, Charles Woodson could seemingly play any position for Michigan in 1997 and excel at it. His versatility as an athlete set him apart as an "outstanding player" and helped him win the Heisman that year.

Having laid out the primary selection factors many voters tend to consider for the Heisman Trophy, Penn State's senior quarterback Michael Robinson, absolutely deserves not only the most careful of consideration for the award, but also an invitation to the ceremony in December.

Statistics: A pure dual-threat quarterback, Robinson's numbers in 2005 have been impressive:

  • Passing: 141 completions on 272 attempts (51.8 percent) for 2,097 yards

  • Rushing: 146 carries for 785 yards (5.4 YPC)

  • Scoring: 27 total touchdowns (16 passing, 11 rushing)

    Robinson's statisitics are amazingly similar to leading Heisman candidate Vince Young:

  • Passing: 136 completions on 217 attempts (62.7 percent) for 2,133 yards

  • Rushing: 111 carries for 778 yards (7.0 YPC)

  • Scoring: 26 total touchdowns (18 passing, 8 rushing)

    Impact: It is arguable that no other individual player has had a greater impact on their team than Michael Robinson, transforming a four-win, bowless team in 2004 to a 10 win, BCS bound, Big Ten championship squad ranked in the top three of the BCS standings.

    This was a player who was doubted by the vast majority of the college football world. A player questioned and critcized by the media. The Big Ten conference felt that Penn State could do no better than six with Robinson at the helm.

    Among many of the major game-changing and season-defining impacts he has had on the Nittany Lions this year:

  • Converting a fourth and 15 in the final minutes of the Northwestern game and then tossing a 37-yard touchdown pass with seconds left to clinch the road win.

  • Rushing for 112 yards against a nationally ranked Minnesota team and leading Penn State to a 44-14 victory.

  • Leading Penn State to a prime-time victory over one of the nation's toughest defenses in a top 10 Ohio State.

  • Rolling up 306 yards passing and rushing on the road against Michigan.

  • Gaining 238 yards against Wisconsin in a battle with the top spot in the Big Ten conference on the line.

  • Leading Penn State to a Big Ten championship and automatic BCS berth.

    Intangibles: When you look at the entire package of Michael Robinson, his intangibles may state the loudest case for him as an "oustanding player."

  • Leadership: Robinson is a vocal field general who leads by example. He has regularly worked with his offensive line and wide receivers (a unit which boasted four freshmen) and transformed them into a potent, multi-dimensional offense.

    Galen Hall, who has coached at programs like Oklahoma, Florida and the Dallas Cowboys, called Robinson the most complete quarterback he has ever worked with — pointing to his athletic ability and his mental sharpness and toughness on the field.

  • Versatility: Versatility has been Robinson's middle name during his career in blue and white. In 2003 he was the team's leading rusher in terms of most carries (107 carries). In 2004 he was the team's leading wide receiver (485 yards).

    He has excelled at every position he has been asked to play. He has shown that he may actually be "the best player in college football," as Joe Paterno has called him.

  • Determination: He has led Penn State through its darkest hours and brought the program back to the national spotlight. During a time when most players who have been overcome with frustration and quit, Robinson showed the mental fortitude and determination to get things back on track.

    He has led the greatest comeback story of the season and perhaps the decade, bringing a team which had a total of seven wins in 2003 and 2004 to ten wins in 2005. A feat very few leaders can do in such a short span in today's game.

  • Class: Robinson is humble and gracious. When he is asked about his performance he points to his offensive line and wide receivers. He appreciates the work and effort his team gives and continually praises them, defelecting the spotlight onto their performances.

    He embodies class and represents what is great about college football.

    So, if you look at entire picture of Michael Robinson with careful consideration you will see he is an "outstanding" player and person in every sense of the word.

    To deny him an invitation to the Heisman ceremony would not only be doing a disservice to the honor, but would be denying the true purpose of the award.

    -30-

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