Send the Heisman, COD

AKRON -- Crate up the Heisman Trophy and deliver it to Huntington. In care of Byron Leftwich. If his awe-inspiring, courageous performance against Akron Saturday didn't convince voters that he's the best college football player in the country, then they're just being pig-headed idiots.

In fact, they're giving pig heads a bad name.

Leftwich proved unequivocally that he deserves the Heisman.

Just don't ask him to strike the pose. His injured left shin is much too sore for that.

That's what was so amazing about Leftwich's performance. Even playing on only one leg, Marshall's star quarterback still completed 19 of 30 passes for 255 yards. He also still managed to sandwich a 26-of-38 for 307 yards performance around a visit to a local sports medicine clinic for x-rays.

Is there any other player in America who could have or would have done that?

"No," answered Marshall wide receiver Denero Marriott. "Only he could do that. Only him. That's amazing. I was out there hurting and he came back. I said the hell with my stuff. It was amazing, man, amazing."

Even a veteran like MU quarterback coach Larry Kueck was stunned by Leftwich's courage.

"What Byron did in the second half was the most courageous thing I've ever seen in my life," said Kueck. "Win, lose or draw, boy, if you ever wanted to define manhood, all you had to do was sit there and watch that thing.

"That was an amazing thing to watch. No matter how much you respected the kid before, after you watch that, you respect him more. He's a full-grown man."

Leftwich's inspirational return with 7:06 remaining in the third quarter actually brought tears to the eyes of some teammates.

"I heard the crowd start cheering and I had no idea what they were cheering about," said center Jeff Edwards. "I turned around and saw ol' No. 7 walking out on the field. I looked around at the rest of the line and when we got in the huddle everyone of us was crying.

"We all had tears in our eyes.

"I tell you, that guy is a soldier. He's not going to leave the game unless he's really hurt. And then come back the way he did? That just chokes me up.

"He's sitting in there right now in so much pain he can hardly walk. He gave it everything he had out there. I wish we could have won that one -- at least, for him."

But Leftwich's courage won't go unrewarded. Not if ESPN has anything to say about it. And, trust me, the network has plenty to say.

ESPN proved that Saturday night, airing highlights that showed Marshall offensive linemen Steve Sciullo and Steve Perretta carrying Leftwich down the field after he had fired a long completion.

The SportsCenter anchor on duty was so amazed by that unheard of, unseen of display of competitive courage, he was ready to award Leftwich the Heisman right then and there.

How many times do you suppose ESPN will air that footage between now and the Heisman voting deadline?

My guess is countless.

And rightfully so.

It was an uncommon display of competitive courage by an uncommon athlete. It was the best of performances under the worst of circumstances. It was grace and determination and courage and indomitable spirit playing on one leg.

Byron Leftwich's performance against Akron was the very definition of the Heisman Trophy.

Send it COD.


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