When the Heisman trophy was first awarded by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City in 1935 a description was written of what the winner should be. The original idea was the Heisman Trophy recipient should be, “An outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
To put it mildly, using the word “integrity” to describe some of the recent Heisman winners is mockable.
For instance, the 2013 winner was Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. A player that always seemed to get the best of his rivals, whether that foe was the Florida Gators, the Miami Hurricanes, or the Tallahassee DA.
The 2010 winner of the Heisman was Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a player that in just one year at Auburn generated so many rumors that his last name might as well have been Kardashian.
And don’t forget the 2005 Heisman winner, USC running back Reggie Bush, a guy who apparently spent more time talking to NFL agents than he spent talking to his college coaches. His collection of transgressions was deemed so significant that Bush eventually had to forfeit the award.
To be fair, while many of the allegations against Winston, Newton, and Bush were never proved, the constant need for some recent Heisman winners to answer questions about more than just their on-field performances leaves everyone connected to the award a little exhausted from the conversation.
What the Heisman Trophy could use then is another winner that restores the original intent of the award. And LSU running back Leonard Fournette may be just that guy.
By now, Fournette’s story is a familiar one to almost everyone that follows college football. He is in the midst of a record-breaking season. On Saturday, Fournette became the 10th-fastest player to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark in a season, and the first player to achieve the feat in just five games since 2006.
After the game against South Carolina it was discovered that Fournette is not just having a special season, he’s also, apparently, a special human being.
Fournette announced in front of the ESPN cameras that he intended to auction off his game-worn jersey to benefit the victims of the South Carolina flooding. It was a gesture from Fournette that simultaneously displayed a generosity toward others and a comfort with himself.
In other words, not only is Fournette not bothered by the growing spotlight brought on by the torrid pace with which he is compiling statistics; he is relaxed enough about his accomplishments to use that notoriety to benefit others.
Of course, Fournette’s nice moment was almost undone by the unending lunacy of the NCAA rule book. It was briefly believed that his desire to sell the shirt off his back would conflict with his status as an amateur. But eventually the NCAA tweeted its blessing of Fournette’s gesture – ultimately proving that college football’s ruling authority is just as powerless to stop Fournette as opposing defenses have been this season.
It has been that kind of year for Fournette. His collection of accomplishments and accolades grows every week.
And while it must be pointed out that LSU’s toughest games all lie ahead, there is little reason to believe Fournette will slow down any time soon. He may very well run all the way through the best of the SEC West on his way to the Heisman ceremony in New York City, where he may claim his sport’s most famous statue.
If that moment comes, it will no doubt be a great day for Fournette and LSU. It will also be a pretty good day for the rest of college football as well because the Heisman will once again be held by a man who embodies the true definition of everything the award is supposed to be.