Ezekiel Elliott entered the 2015 season as the favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
The junior running back put together a solid season, finishing sixth nationally in rushing yards per game with just over 139 a contest and tied for second in the country with 19 rushing scores. He received the Silver Football Award as the Big Ten's MVP.
When the three Heisman finalists were announced, however, Elliott was nowhere to be found.
Ohio State legend and the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin thinks he knows why.
“I think what hurt Zeke obviously would be the comments that he made after the Michigan State game and quite frankly I admire him for making those remarks," Griffin said.
"Yeah he may have come out and said some things that people are upset with, but he is an outstanding young man, he’s a great leader on that team, he does the right thing in the classroom and I think he was showing his leadership to speak up for the team. I think he was punished for it when it came down to the votes but I admire him for what he did.”
Those now infamous comments, which featured Elliott admonishing the playcalling in the Buckeyes' loss to the Spartans and calling for more carries, came after a game in which the star running back got just 12 carries and finished with 32 yards rushing.
While his comments may not have helped his cause, and the dismal performance against Michigan State surely didn't help, Griffin remained supportive of the Ohio State running back.
"He probably shouldn’t have made them, but he made those remarks," Griffin said. "It tells you that he’s a leader on that team because if you ask the other guys they’ll probably tell you that those things were going on. Zeke just was the one that said them. Probably shouldn’t have said them publicly, probably should have said them to the coaches, but I admire him for doing that because it made a difference on our team the next week our offense came out and played its best game of the year against an outstanding Michigan team and Zeke was the workhorse that day. To me it showed the type of leader that I think he is."
Leader or not, Elliott is not one of the finalists. Instead, Alabama's Derrick Henry, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey were invited to New York.
Griffin, who has a vote for the award but did not offer his selection, thinks Elliott was worthy of making the trip to New York and so did the running back's coach.
“There’s no question he should be in New York," Urban Meyer said of Elliott. "I did see some of the guys play, I saw some of the statistics of some of the guys playing. There’s a very nice group of players that are going to go.
"He’s certainly a great player on a great team.”