The Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday night to Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston in a landslide vote. This is the most prestigious award that is given out to any collegiate football player. It is the premiere mark of distinction that exalts one player above every other. The criteria is "the most outstanding player in college football in the United States whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."
There are three categories of persons eligible to vote for the award winners. There are 870 media voters, 145 from each of six regions. The 57 living previous Heisman winners each have a vote. A player who has won the Heisman and remains in school could win again and could end up voting for himself. The last category is fans who express their opinion in a survey conducted by ESPN.com and they constitute one vote. Voters can make a first choice and continue through the candidates voting for No. 2 and No. 3 and so on.
I have represented five Heisman Winners at some point in their career. Andre Ware (Houston, 1989), Desmond Howard (Michigan, 1992), Gino Torretta (Miami, 1992), Rashaan Salaam (Colorado, 1994) and Ricky Williams (Texas, 1999). Each of these players had his profile elevated and carried this honor for the rest of his life. In some cases, the award engendered marketing opportunities as early as the winter/spring following their final college season.
Winning the Heisman is no guarantor of success in the National Football League. Robert Griffin III was a star his rookie season, and Cam Newton has made a major impact this season, among recent winners. For every success, there is a Jason White, Matt Leinart Troy Smith or Tim Tebow, winners since 2003 or after and not currently in pro football. That raises an issue which has not been specifically clarified -- what are the exact criteria for selecting the winner?
The finalists are QB Jameis Winston, Florida State; QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; QB AJ McCarron, Alabama; RB/QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois; RB Andre Williams, Boston College; and RB Tre Mason, Auburn.
Manziel won last year and even though he had a better season this year before the last several games, voters may feel he has already won and can win again if he stays next year. Should the winner be the player whose team has been most successful? Winston leads an undefeated team into the BCS championship game, and McCarron's team won the national championship two of the past three years and barely failed this year.
Should it be the player who means most to his team, which could not succeed without him? An injury to Manziel, Winston or Lynch would have seriously disabled their teams' chances for success. But all the players nominated qualify to some degree. Should it be the most critical position? Since 2000, the winner has been a quarterback every year except 2009 when RB Mark Ingram won. Should it be the player with the best statistics? All of the players qualify. Does character matter? Allegations of sexual abuse were leveled against Winston this year, but the prosecutor decided not to bring charges.
When the envelope is opened, the winner will be Jameis Winston. His performance resurrected some lean years for Florida State. He had a quarterback rating of 190, completing 67 percent of his passes for 38 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions as he threw for 3,820 yards. He is only a freshman in his first season playing, and the eye-popping statistics and undefeated season far outrank the other candidates.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.