At what point does under the radar become over the radar? The answer is the point in time when college football magazines and season previews are published. The editors and writers are scrambling for the next batch of Heisman hopefuls, and some years those folks have to dig very deep to find solid candidates.
Count 2010 as “one of those years.” Gone are the major college quarterbacks like Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, and Colt McCoy. Gone are college football’s household names like Ndamukong Suh. The sport needs new names. And fans are ready… for Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis.
It just makes sense that 2010 is the season of the running back. No great receivers, defensive backs, or quarterbacks are looming over the Heisman debate. Sure, some names are floating around, but they lack legitimate attention. Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet and others have only shown brief flashes of brilliance, but still remain mired in potential. Dion Lewis is coming off of a superb freshman campaign.
In just one season’s time Lewis has amassed nearly 2,000 yards of total offense, including 1,799 on the ground. He scored a total of 18 touchdowns, including an 85 yard run. Oh, and he never lost a fumble. Lewis was consistently over 100 yards per game after week five of the season, topping out at 194 in the team’s biggest and most visible game of the season, a home loss to eventual conference champion Cincinnati, 45-44.
The statistics for Lewis prove that he is the real deal. The momentum behind his season in 2009 prove that he is ready to break out.
As of November 2009 Lewis was the only freshman on the Walter Camp Award watch list. Sure, it’s just a watch list, but as a freshman that is a hard ceiling to break. He was also 2009’s rookie of the year and offensive player of the year as a freshman, a record only Mike Vick can claim.
December of 2009 yielded more hallmarks of momentum as additional awards were announced and the brilliance of Lewis’ freshman season was put into perspective by history. Perspective especially revealed itself when the Heisman Trophy winner was announced. As great as Alabama running back Mark Ingram’s season was, his 1,542 yards and 15 touchdowns were not as statistically impressive as what Lewis accomplished. Lewis proved as a freshman that he can already best the stats of a Heisman winner. Voters should not take this accomplishment lightly. Lewis’ feats should make up for the fact that he doesn’t play on a marquee team in the media’s darling conference – the SEC.
If stats and momentum are not convincing enough, how about an endorsement from a former Walter Camp winner and great running quarterback? Tony Dorsett told scout.com that he “loves watching” Dion Lewis.
“What I like most is that he has no ego,” Dorsett said. “He just loves to run the ball.”
There has been a lot of promotion – and self-promotion – in sports this year. Athletes are placed on pedestals, not by the media as tradition holds, but by the athletes themselves and advertisers. Lewis appears to be a bit of a departure from the frustrating precedent modern athletes have set. A good attitude is never why a player deserves a performance award, but it does speak to his unwillingness to call attention to himself. Sports writers and voters must be diligent about following Lewis’ sophomore season. Lewis will perform, and if he gets noticed, he may just deserve the Heisman Trophy.