The 2015 Heisman Trophy finalists were announced on ESPN’s SportsCenter Monday by former recipient Ricky Williams. Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey will head to New York City to vie for the right to be named college football’s best player this Saturday night. All three players’ programs finished in the top 10 this season, with Henry’s Crimson Tide and Watson’s Tigers qualifying for the College Football Playoff, which will ultimately determine a National Champion.
The Heisman Trophy is awarded annually to the nation’s most outstanding player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. It was first presented in 1935 to Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago, and most recently, former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won the award in 2014.
Alabama’s workhorse running back Derrick Henry might be the favorite heading into Saturday night as he’ll try to become just the second Heisman winner in school history. Mark Ingram won the award in 2009 and, ironically, was a finalist alongside another Stanford running back that year in Toby Gerhart. Ingram is the last running back to take home the hardware, as quarterbacks have heard their name called in five consecutive trophy presentations (Mariota, Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, and Auburn’s Cam Newton). Henry, a junior, was the SEC Championship Game MVP, rushing for 189 yards and a touchdown in Alabama’s win over Florida, breaking Herschel Walker’s single-season conference rushing record in the process. All told, Henry ran for 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns for the No. 2 ranked Tide.
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey broke records of his own in helping the Cardinal finish sixth in the country this season. The sophomore running back passed Barry Sanders for the most all-purpose yards in a single season with 3,496, and 461 of those came in Stanford’s win over USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game this past Saturday. The son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey finished with 15 total touchdowns, two of which came as a passer. He’d be the first Stanford player to win the Heisman trophy since Jim Plunkett in 1970.
Meanwhile, Clemson has never had a Heisman Trophy winner. In fact, Deshaun Watson will be the school’s first finalist ever. The sophomore quarterback led the Tigers to a perfect 13-0 season, surviving one final test in the ACC Championship Game against North Carolina. Watson threw for 3.512 yards and ran for 887 more, the only player in the nation to throw for more than 3,500 and rush for more than 800. What’s most impressive, however, might be that he did that just a year after having ACL surgery.
While the Heisman card is stacked, players who might have had an argument to join them in the Big Apple include Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Navy’s Keenan Reynolds, and LSU’s Leonard Fournette. Reynolds and Fournette were hurt by their teams’ late-season losses, so Mayfield might be entitled to the biggest gripe as Oklahoma finished fourth in the country and in the College Football Playoff. The Sooners’ quarterback threw for 35 touchdowns and ran for seven more, leading Oklahoma to an 11-1 record and a date with Watson and the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl on New Years Eve. Henry and the Crimson Tide will take on the Michigan State Spartans in the Cotton Bowl immediately after the Clemson-Oklahoma showdown. The winners of each game will then play for the National Championship on January 11 in Glendale, Arizona.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy presentation presented by Nissan will air live on ESPN this Saturday at 8 p.m.
[Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images]