It was Woodson's versatility that was cited over Peyton Manning's productivity when he won the "Heistman" that year. Besides, many of these same voters proclaimed: ‘Manning wasn't even the best quarterback in college football.' That distinction belonged to a guy named Ryan Leaf, who at last report was looking for an Arena League team to direct after stumbling his way through an undistinguished four-year NFL career.
What Woodson actually accomplished that season seems a lot more ordinary in retrospect, and you'd be hard pressed to find a single scribe who would admit to voting for Leaf, or one that would own up to the opinion Leaf was superior to Manning as a signal caller.
But this isn't a story about the injustice of that vote, rather it's a reference point to better appreciate what Mark Jones has accomplished as a senior at Tennessee. In truth, Jones is more of a three-way threat in 2003 than Woodson ever was in 1997.
During that Heisman season Woodson was first and foremost a cornerback. He played 613 snaps on defense, 83 plays on special teams and 69 on offense for a total of 765 plays in 12 games.
By comparison, Jones has played 341 plays on offense, 175 plays on defense and 54 plays on special teams for a total of 570 plays.
In 613 plays at cornerback, Woodson recorded 27 solo tackles and 15 assists. In his 175 plays on defense, Jones has recorded 11 solo tackles and three assists. Woodson had eight interceptions in 12 games which he returned for seven yards. Jones has had two interceptions in 11 games which he returned for 51 yards.
On offense in 1997, the Michigan star had 11 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns. He ran the ball three times for 15 yards and no touchdowns. By comparison, Jones has 28 receptions for 454 yards and three touchdowns while he has six carries for 63 yards. Woodson averaged 21 yards per catch and five yards per carry. Jones has averaged 16.2 yards per catch and 10.5 yards per carry.
On special teams, Woodson had 36 punt returns for 301 yards with a 78-yard touchdown return. Jones has had 18 returns for 282 yards and a 58-yard touchdown. Jones has 19 fewer yards in half the number of punt returns that Woodson had. Woodson averaged 8.4 yards per return while Jones has averaged 16.2 yards per return.
On total, Woodson finished the year with 554 yards compared to Jones' total of 850 yards in one less game. Both players scored four touchdowns. Woodson had 28 more tackles and six more interceptions in 438 more plays on defense. Jones has 271 more yards on offense in 272 more plays. And Jones has a clear edge as a punt returner. Woodson's longest play was of the 1997 campaign was the 78-yard punt return against Ohio State. Jones' longest play this season was a school record 90-yard reception for a touchdown against Georgia.
Add it all up and it's amazing that none of the same people who were so enthralled by Woodson's achievements haven't even taken notice of Jones' accomplishments. Of course, that's probably because Woodson posted his numbers with a rose in his mouth and a chip on his shoulder.
On the other hand, Jones lets his play speak for itself.