Bama Will Be Back In Heisman Running

Alabama has no more Heisman Trophy winners than does Baylor. Last night, Robert Griffin III, Baylor's quarterback, became the first Bear to be so honored. The Crimson Tide, too, has had but one winner.

There is a huge difference in the programs, though, and it's not predicated on Heisman Trophy winners. Alabama wins national championships.

It is more than happenstance that the Crimson Tide's lone Heisman Trophy winner was also the Most Valuable Player in the BCS National Championship Game as Bama won its 13th national championship in 2009.

Over the years there has been the suggestion that legendary Alabama Coach Paul Bryant was not interested in his players winning the Heisman Trophy. To be sure, any coach would select a national championship for his team than a Heisman Trophy for one member of it, but Bryant had great respect for the Heisman. And while he was winning six national championships, he was also coaching players who were serious Heisman contenders.

Coach Nick Saban was on hand in New York in hopes that Trent Richardson would be Bama's second Heisman Trophy winner. It didn't happen, but Richardson has a chance to be a part of Saban's second Crimson Tide national championship team.

Richardson finished third in this year's balloting, behind Griffin and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

Did Richardson deserve better? Almost every serious analysis of the situation recognizes a handful of circumstances that were costly to Richardson. He didn't play on the final weekend of the season. The play of LSU punt return man/cornerback Tyrann Mathieu in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game almost certainly earned him votes that were taken from Richardson. The admitted mean-spiritedness of some voters, leaving Richardson off the ballot because they were irritated at the unrelated selection of Alabama for the BCS National Championship Game.

Luck was also runner-up last year and chose to return for his senior season. It is unlikely that Richardson will be in an Alabama uniform after the BCS National Championship Game against LSU in New Orleans on January 9.

Mark Ingram won the Heisman in Alabama's 2009 national championship season.

In other Alabama national championship seasons the Tide had players who finished in the top 10.

In 1961, Pat Trammell finished fifth. Another player on that team, linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, finished fourth in 1962.

Steve Sloan, quarterback of the 1965 national championship team, finished 10th.

Steadman Shealy was quarterback of the 1979 national championship team and was 10th in Heisman Trophy voting.

The 1992 national championship team produced three Heisman Trophy finalists, two of them in subsequent seasons. Defensive end Eric Curry was 10th in 1992. Wide receiver David Palmer, a sophomore in '92, finished third in 1993. Quarterback Jay Barker, also a sophomore in 1992, was fifth in his senior season, 1994.

That Alabama is one of the handful of truly national teams and the fact that the Crimson Tide is frequently in the national championship race (and thus has its star players highlighted), Bama has an advantage over the Baylors of the world -- the 2011 vote notwithstanding -- in individual honors.

Other Alabama players who were Heisman Trophy finalists were halfback Joe Kilgrow, fifth in 1937; halfback Harry Gilmer, fifth in 1945 as a sophomore and fifth again in 1947 as a senior, halfback Johnny Musso fourth in 1971, quarterback Terry Davis fifth in 1972, quarterback Walter Lewis ninth in 1983, linebacker Cornelius Bennett seventh in 1986, tailback Bobby Humphrey 10th in 1987, linebacker Derrick Thomas 10th in 1988, and tailback Shaun Alexander seventh in 1999.

Kilgrow, Gilmer, and for part of his career Jordan, were two-way players. Kilgrow and Gilmer were selected primarily for offensive play, but Jordan was a fulltime linebacker by 1962. It is interesting that four of Bama's 18 finalists have ben defensive players.

So who will be Bama's next Heisman finalist, perhaps Heisman winner?

Think about defense. Think about Vinnie Sunseri.

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