Naveau column: Elliott fell too far, too fast in Heisman consideration


Once in the 1970s, I was playing the world conquest board game “Risk” with two people I’d just met and another person who had worked with me for a couple of years.

One of the players who I’d just met started trying to convince me to make a move that on the surface looked like it would be to my advantage but really wasn’t.

His opinion meant nothing to me, a fact the player who knew me decided to point out to him after it became apparent his long-winded attempt to get me to do what he said I should do was going nowhere.

“If you try to tell him what to do, he’s just going to do the opposite,” my friend said.

Maybe that explains why I was one of only five Heisman Trophy voters nationwide who voted Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott No. 1 on their ballots.

They said I shouldn’t do it, so I did it.

OK, it doesn’t fully explain it. But I won’t deny it played a part in my vote.

The stampede off Elliott’s bandwagon by many Heisman voters seemed a bit overdone to me. And the sudden congregating of the national media on the bandwagons of some athletes who had only recently been ordained as leading Heisman candidates also seemed overdone.

It was the horse race mentality. Who’s up this week? Who’s down? One mis-step and a player who ran for more yards in his career than Eddie George on 118 fewer carries is suddenly not good enough to even be in the Heisman conversation.

My problem wasn’t that only four other voters joined me in putting Elliott No. 1 on a Heisman ballot. It was that he was demoted to non-candidate by so many voters so quickly even though he had similar stats to players who were being touted as better Heisman candidates.

And he did that without many credible threats around him on Ohio State’s offense to keep defenses from loading up to stop him.

Ohio State never decided who its quarterback was until November.

If you think of a No. 1 receiver as someone like Cris Carter, Terry Glenn, Joey Galloway or David Boston, then Michael Thomas was more like a No. 1.5 receiver, Jalin Marshall was more like a No. 2.5 receiver than a No. 2, and there wasn’t much behind them.

And don’t even ask who would have been the workhorse running back if Elliott had gotten hurt. Urban Meyer probably didn’t even know.

Obviously, seeing Elliott play 12 times this season influenced my perception. And there is always a regional influence on my ballot. Big Ten football is what I watch every Saturday.

In 16 years of voting for the Heisman, I think I have put only three Ohio State players on my ballot (Troy Smith, Braxton Miller and Elliott) but I have probably had a Big Ten player among my top three almost every year, possibly every year.

This year, my ballot was Elliott first, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson second and Alabama running back Derrick Henry third.

You might disagree. You might disagree strongly. And that’s why people care about the Heisman Trophy. It’s always up for debate.

That’s why the Heisman is great. Lots of differences of opinion. Lots of debate. Lots of arguing. Lots of interest.

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