Handing off the Heisman

Rarely has there been two players on the same team in the middle of such a heated discussion. But ironically enough, University of Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey and running back Willis McGahee want nothing to do with the topic. That's what both University of Miami standouts are leading everybody to believe anyway.

For several months, Dorsey and McGahee, integral members of the Hurricanes squad that finished the regular season 12-0 and will play Ohio State in the national title Fiesta Bowl Jan. 3, have remained near the top of frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy award all year.

Only neither player has endorsed himself during the course of the season whenever the possibility of winning the award came up, instead showering each other with praise and glowing about the value of their respective talents.

And apparently nothing has changed.

With the ceremony to honor college football's most outstanding player rapidly approaching (Saturday, Dec. 14) McGahee and Dorsey continue to shy away from any personal attraction with the award. Dorsey, 38-1 at the University of Miami in four years, has said repeatedly that winning games, not the Heisman is his ultimate goal, while McGahee has endorsed Dorsey for the award almost every time he's been asked about it this season.

"I would be a great honor and something that I can look back at for as long as I live but that's not why I'm playing this game," said Dorsey, who wrapped up the regular season with 3,073 passing yards and 26 touchdowns on 194-of-350 attempts. "I've said many times before the bottom line for me is winning. This is a team sport and I'm no bigger than anybody else."

Dorsey said on McGahee: "What Willis has done is just unbelievable. I know there are a lot of great players around college football but I don't know where we'd be without him. I would have no problem if he won the award."

Despite seeing all his passing statistics improve this season (2,652 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes in 2001-02) Dorsey has endured plenty of criticism in regards to his overall skills and true value to the team. A lot of critics believe that Dorsey is a by-product of the team's system and just making good use of all the talented players around him. Early prognosticators have Dorsey being a fourth or fifth round pick in the 2003 NFL draft.

"I don't get caught up in all that," said Dorsey. "I just try to go out there and give it my all for this football team."

McGahee went from relative obscurity last spring to one of the premier running backs in the country with 1,686 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. The red-shirt sophomore also had 24 receptions and 350 yards.

It almost seemed that McGahee was trying to avoid any Heisman talk during the season Soft-spoken and quiet, McGahee would grin and immediately bring Dorsey into the conversation whenever his name was mentioned.

McGahee added earlier this week that just being invited to the ceremony would be enough.

"Going to New York would be enough for me," said McGahee, who rushed for 314 yards in eight games last season. "I just want to see Ground Zero and a superstar walking the streets. That would be enough for me."

Although no player or coach talked at length about it after Saturday's game against Virginia Tech, Dorsey was involved in a play during the contest that left many wondering if the Hurricanes were trying in vain to get Dorsey the Heisman. Leading 49-21 in the third quarter and faced with a third-and-goal from the Virginia Tech one-yard-line the Hurricanes elected to run a halfback pass to Dorsey from Jarrett Payton. But instead of a wide-open Dorsey ending up with a touchdown reception the pass was intercepted and returned for a score by Willie Pile.

But Dorsey defended the cal and said afterwards that the players involved, including himself, were at fault for not making the play work.

"We have to make it work in that situation," said Dorsey.

Although the voters might have walked away from the game having second thoughts about punching Dorsey's name of their ballots, McGahee left nothing to chance. The 6-1 and 224-pounder rushed for 205 yards and six touchdowns against the Holies.

"Dorsey is the man," said McGahee. "I'm just glad I can be part of something so special."

Both players are undoubtedly pulling for each other even if being on the same team and region of the country may hurt their respective chances. But in the end it may not matter.

Iowa starting quarterback Brad Banks, who earlier this week was selected as the Associated Press Player of the Year, garnered loads of attention as the season progressed and finished as the nation's top-rated passer. Banks, who ran for 387 yards and five touchdowns, threw for 2,369 yards and 25 touchdowns to lead the Hawkeyes to an 11-1 record and a spot in the FedEx Orange Bowl, Jan. 2.

University of Southern California starting quarterback Carson Palmer, who will be opposite Banks in the FedEx Orange Bowl, has thrown for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdown passes this season while leading the Trojans to a 10-2 record and No. 4 ranking in the final BCS standings.

Dorsey finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting last season behind eventual winner Eric Crouch of Nebraska and Florida's Rex Grossman.

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