Andre Williams For Heisman: The Renaissance Candidate

Jeff Zelevansky

Andre Williams is the Heisman Trophy candidate no one watched. That makes what he did this season that much more special.

This morning's ESPNU Heisman Preview profiled each of the six candidates for the 2013 Heisman Trophy, wrapping up with Boston College senior running back Andre Williams. Kevin Carter, a Florida defensive end from 1991-94 and ESPNU co-host, was asked whether he thought Williams would have been more in the conversation if he doesn't suffer the injury against Syracuse. His answer was, surprising.

The injury has a little bit to do with it but it's also the perception of the school. And if they are a school that's winning and having a lot of noise around the program. This is Boston College. No disrespect to them. They are building their program. Steve Addazio is a wonderful coach. But when you don't get the attention, you don't get the attention and no one notices ... no one realizes that you're the leading rusher in college football with 2,000 yards.

Couple things right off the bat.

a) If you have to say "no disrespect" on air you've probably just disrespected someone
b) Pretty sure people have noticed that Williams is the leading rusher in college football
c) This also wouldn't be the first time someone went on air with a dismissive and condescending "This is Boston College" quip.

What's odd about this quote is the narrative was very different when discussing Jordan Lynch's candidacy (Northern Illinois). Unfortunately, this is the type of bias that Heisman candidates from Boston College have to overcome to win college football's highest individual honor.

Over at HeismanPundit.com, Chris Huston states this plainly with Heismandment #7, one of his 10 rules govern the Heisman Trophy race. If you aren't a QB, RB or multi-position athlete from one of the following schools -- Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan, Miami, Florida and Florida State -- you are essentially on a mid-major program and have to accomplish something so incredible to even enter into the Heisman conversation.

If I had to wager a guess, I'm betting Carter hasn't watched a down of BC football outside of highlights this season. Matt Hinton noted a similar phenomenon over at Deadspin the other day, finding Williams' candidacy fascinating because a majority of Heisman Trophy voters likely haven't seen him play.

Boston College's highest-rated game of the season was an Oct. 12 loss at Clemson, where Williams finished with 70 yards and zero touchdowns on 24 carries, and that was overshadowed in the same time slot by Florida-LSU. The three monster games that put him on the map in November aired on ESPN3 (vs. New Mexico State) and the ACC Regional Sports Network (vs. N.C. State and Maryland). If you watched Boston College-New Mexico State over the Internet you deserve a Heisman vote because that is some fucking passion for the game.

Aggievision rec.

What is so fascinating about Williams trip to New York is that a majority of voters probably did not, in fact, see him play. The only nationally televised game where BC owned the time slot came back in week two vs. Wake Forest when Williams rushed for 204 yards on 35 carries, including a dominant fourth quarter performance that put the game out of reach. That game drew a 1.0 rating but happened well before Williams went off in November and his Heisman Trophy profile rose.

In order for a player like Williams on a non-traditional power to make it to New York, he had to accomplish something so incredible at his position to leave no doubt in the minds of voters that did not see him play. In an era of round-the-clock media coverage and college football broadcasts straight from noon to midnight on Saturdays, that's not easy to do. It's fairly obvious why Winston, Manziel (last year's winner), McCarron, Lynch and even Mason are in New York. The first four put up huge numbers at the QB position and combined for just five losses this season, while Mason's incredible single-game performance vs. Missouri was seen by many on TV. Even Lynch's candidacy benefitted from the MAC's mid-week games.

But Williams, playing on a 7-5 team with a majority of games televised on the ACC's Regional Sports Networks, ESPN3, the Pac-12 Network and 8-bit Aggievision, had to have a statistically superior season at his position to overcome the odds to even make it to New York. Heismandment #8 backs this up, stating that a back on a non-traditional power "usually must gain at least 2,000 yards and at least 15 touchdowns." A 2,000-yard rushing season has become the benchmark for Heisman Trophy hopefuls at running back and Williams has rushed for the ninth highest single-season rushing output in college football history. If, as the naysayers would suggest, that was as easy to do, more players would have accomplished this feat. To me, that makes Williams' accomplishment even that much more incredible and gives hope to future Boston College players that they can get back to New York.

Whether another BC player becomes the second Eagle to win the Heisman Trophy in my lifetime, I'm not as sure. Just think about the series of fortuitous events that had to happen -- going back to the Addazio hire, but including Matt Patchan transferring to BC, Rolandan Finch transferring out of the program, Addazio/Day tailoring a power running game to the strengths of the roster, Randy Edsall icing Nate Freese and the AD executing a well-timed social media campaign following the Maryland win -- for Williams to even make it to New York tonight. In an ideal world, I don't think Addazio/Day want to feature a single running back in the offense; certainly not if next year's recruiting class is any indication.

I'm under no delusions that Williams is going to win tonight. Florida State QB Jameis Winston is going to win the 79th Heisman Trophy and Williams will not want of individual accolades. Williams has already brought home the Doak Walker Award and is well on his way to consensus All-American status; with a shot of becoming a unanimous All-American which is a remarkable accomplishment in its own right, especially at running back.

Personally I'm just hoping that Williams holds off Tre Mason as the top RB in the vote. I really don't like what it says about the award and the "What have you done for me lately?" nature of the Heisman Trophy vote if Mason jumps Williams. Less than two weeks ago, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was stumping for Auburn QB Nick Marshall to get to New York. Two weeks later and it is Mason, not Marshall, headed to New York on the basis of a single-game performance. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that Williams will hold off Mason.

If the vote ends up being Winston-Mason 1-2, the Heisman Trust might as well wait to give the trophy out after the BCS National Championship Game / College Football Playoff title game and just give it to the game's MVP. The award has devolved into the best player on the best team award more years than not. Not sure that's what the Heisman Trust had in mind when they set out to honor the "outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."

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