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Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Updated: December 6, 3:29 PM ET
All Heisman bets are off

By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

Me, I'm a straight-up college football buff. A real hound for it. Between me and Dog, that makes one of us. Dog is a buff of what Dog can get a winning bet down on. Dog will bet on hockey if he thinks he's got a line figured on it. That's when he gets interested in any action other than hoop. Trying to get down on the Heisman this week. Dog thinks I have the inside dope, which of course I do, but not on how to fix up the Heisman for dinner.

"Dub, I'm trying to get down on this Heisman. Hook me up."

"You can bet on that, Dog?"

Dog looked at me like that other four-legged dog looked at that old RCA Victor phonograph. "You can bet on anything, Dub, damn near. Vegas, A.C., Costa Rican offshore hook-up. The point ain't betting. The point is winning. Now you know how I am about my money. Tell me who should win the Heisman. On the down-low."

"Well, for a percentage, let's take it dude by dude and see."

Rex Grossman, quarterback, Florida
Rex Grossman
Rex Grossman's had a great season, but the sophomore still has to pay his dues.
"Sophomores should be just getting eligible to play, not winning Heismans, Dog. Grossman throws a nice ball, likes to show off his guns, and is operating in Spurrier's System. Steve Spurrier gets the best young pro receivers in Florida, offensive tackles from Hell, then schemes the heck out of them. Usually likes slightly spavined QBs who are slight of frame, as he was. Spurrier recruits himself. In Spurrier's System, Grossman has it made. Spurrier can make a Heisman candidate out of your grandma, let along Rex Grossman."

"Hey. Get off Grandma."

"Why? She's got quick feet."

Ken Dorsey, quarterback, Miami
Ken Dorsey
Ken Dorsey and his ascot will have to wait another year.
"The name Gino Toretta ring a bell, Dog?"

"No."

"Well, even he won a Heisman at Miami once. The Miami QB is what the Notre Dame QB used to be -- back when there was a Notre Dame. The Miami QB is a Heisman candidate as soon as he becomes No. 1 on the Miami depth chart. Sweet Kenny Dorsey's much more talented than Gino Toretta, but, come on, saying he's accomplished more in his career than, say, Antwaan Randle-El of Indiana, is like saying a pilot who takes a 747 nonstop from New York to L.A. on a crystal-clear day with a full crew of 10 is more deserving than one who takes a single-engine prop solo over the Atlantic in The Perfect Storm. Dorsey's the guy in the ascot who takes the Rolls out for a Sunday drive; Randle-El is Dale Earnhardt.

"Have you seen Miami's team this year, Dog? You could give the backup running back on that team the Heisman Trophy and not be what you might call wrong. You could give Clinton Portis the Heisman Trophy, but you'd have to catch him first. You could give that big offensive tackle, Bryant McKinnie, the Heisman Trophy and Ken Dorsey would be the last one to argue with you. Heisman Trophy? Think bigger. You could keep Miami together four more years, bet big and win on a Super Bowl. Heisman that.

"But Virginia Tech and the Beam Team made Kenny Dorsey look like a kid, which is what he is. Tennessee did the same to Rex Grossman. They're good, now, very good; they just ain't ripe yet. And in the immortal words of Jim Brown, 'When I want a peach, I want a peach when it's ripe.' Jim wasn't talking about Heisman Trophy winners, but you get the point, don't you, Dog?

"Jim Brown didn't win the Heisman Trophy in 1956, even though Curt Gowdy watched him whale on TCU in the Cotton Bowl that year and said then and there that he was the greatest football player he'd ever seen. You know who won the Heisman that year? Paul Hornung. Quarterback of 2-8 Notre Dame. Hello, Randle-El Gato. And yet, in spite of Beano Cook's lobbying, Randle-El The Cat has as much chance of winning the Heisman Trophy as I have of winning Powerball. His only consolation is the fact he can play, and can now go out and split time with Coverdale at point for the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team, if that's what he wants to do."

"As far as Grossman and Dorsey go, they can hash it out between themselves over the Heisman Trophy next year. So that leaves ..."

Joey Harrington, quarterback, Oregon
Joey Harrington
Rudy ... er, Joey Harrington's hopes were chopped down by the Beavers.
"He cost me money last week, Dub."

"That's enough to cost him the Heisman right there, Dog. That's all the voters want to know: 'Forget stats, versatility, inspired performance, strength of schedule -- it's all about who cost Dog money.' Get real. That's not what cost Joey. Joey had a billboard in New York this year. Billboard? Joey had the side of a building. Joey is the side of a building. Joey got size. Joey got game, too, only you wouldn't know it from watching him against O-State.

"I dug on Harrington looking up at the sky, drinking it all in during the player introductions at Autzen Stadium before the Oregon State game. Great thee-a-ter and drama. Looked like Joey was ready to shake down some thunder from the sky. What happened? Joey got shook down is what happened. Dorsey and Grossman had already been made to look like what they are that day -- underclassmen. Vols and Gobblers and BCS, oh my! So it was set up beautiful for pal Joey. But football ain't no screenplay, Dog. Joey didn't look like Joey was supposed to look . Joey looked like Rudy. Wrong script. Joey was sacked, stripped and pillaged on the Key Play while going back toward his own goal line, lost the ball and nearly the game and the Heisman Trophy to ... the Beav?

"Hey, Wally. Forget Joey. Nice guy, though. Real trooper. Holmgren should take him. He's better than Hasselbeck now."

"Who's left, Dub?"

Eric Crouch, quarterback, Nebraska
Eric Crouch
Eric Crouch can do it all, though he was overshadowed by ...
"Well, I was gonna say Crouch, Dog. Crouch is the only one of them who threw for a touchdown (though not for that many), ran for a touchdown (plenty) and caught a touchdown (against OU in front of the world). In fact, if his running back hadn't fumbled on the goal line against Colorado, who knows? Colorado might have beaten Nebraska only 62-52. Crouch is Nolan Cromwell all over again, could start at free safety for the Raiders next year. He's got more upside than what the Silver and Black got back there now."

"... Dub, can't bet on projected NFL starters ... at least I don't think you can ... gotta check on that ... get back to Heisman, Dub."

"Oh, yeah, well, like I was saying, I like Crouch's chances, but I can't lock in with Crouch if some guy on the other side of the field in the biggest game of the year scores six touchdowns ...

"Yeah? Who's that?"

Chris Brown, running back, Colorado
Chris Brown
Chris Brown's six touchdowns against Nebraska.
"That's who, Dog. Scored six TDs against Nebraska, came back and scored three TDs against Texas in the Big 12 championship game. He even looks like a Heisman Trophy, or how it ought to look, anyway. He also looks like Eric Dickerson when he runs. Like a sewing machine. Thing of beauty. But he can't win the Heisman, even though he played like a Heisman winner late.

"Problem is, it was too late."

"So Crouch then, right?"

"I like Crouch, but not as much as I like this guy ..."

Major Applewhite, quarterback, Texas
"Major Applewhite could get a Heisman on attitude alone, Dog.

"If I'm Major Applewhite, first of all, I have one of the great all-time names, and here I am, starting at quarterback at Texas and spreading the rock around and basically living my life. Here comes this Prototype, Chris Simms, and he's a year behind me, but a new coach, Mack Brown, who didn't recruit me, starts him because he basically had to start him to get him. It's a wink deal -- they always say you have to earn the job. Sure you do. You "earn the job" by signing the letter-of-intent, if you're Ken Dorsey or Chris Simms.

Major Applewhite
Major Applewhite deserves an award for being a team guy.
"So Major Applewhite sits his senior year, only he doesn't sulk, he's all up on the sideline, trying to fire up and mostly console his fellow players in the Big 12 championship game. He's all into it, team guy all the way, when anybody else would have sulked about it. Chris Simms would have sulked about it. George Washington would have sulked about it. Abraham Lincoln would have sulked about it. I don't know anybody who wouldn't have sulked about it.

"Major Applewhite didn't sulk about it. He didn't even warm up on the sidelines to put the screws to this coach who didn't recruit him, as Simms threw pick after pick in the Big 12 championship game. He waited until Mack Brown had to give him the sign or be burned in effigy in the public square in Austin. Major goes in there cold, throws a perfect strike 78-yard bomb for a touchdown, drives them time after time, throws no picks, zero, and if some Colorado kicker named Flores (ask Gary Barnett who he thinks should win the Heisman Trophy, and I'll bet he says Flores) hadn't bailed out Colorado after some poor Texas dude roughed the punter, Major Applewhite would have won that game, and everybody knows it."

"Major Applewhite?"

"Forget him, Dog. He's got as much chance to win it as two other guys who shoulda coulda woulda won it.

Drew Henson, quarterback, Michigan-New York Yankees
Michael Vick, quarterback, Virginia Tech-Atlanta Falcons
Michael Vick
Michael Vick has millions of reasons not to regret missing a Heisman.
"Only those two QBs didn't stick around just to get jerked around by new head coaches or the BCS, or to withstand wacky Heisman evaluations like this one, only worse. Heisman evaluations and a buck-and-half will get you on the subway. They opted for a few mil instead. They say staying in college makes you wiser. Right."

"So what are you telling me, Dub?"

"I'm telling you who should win the Heisman. It's either Travis Stephens, that little running back made out of rubber who put 226 yards on Florida at the Swamp for the Vols, or Applewhite, or Chris Brown, or Bryant McKinnie, or Antwaan Randle-El, or Woodrow Dantzler of Clemson, or the Artist Formerly Known As UCLA's Star Running Back, or Julius Peppers of North Carolina, or Rohan Davey of LSU, or that maniac, that Roy Williams at Oklahoma, the safety who rattles the opposition's teeth when he isn't covering sideline to sideline. They all should win a Heisman. They all should win one just as much as whoever actually does win it."

"OK, Dub, I ain't asking who should win the Heisman anymore. I'm asking you who will win the Heisman."

"Crouch. Not Stanley, the newspaper columnist, or Andre, the gospel singer. Eric. The future Raiders' free safety."

"Sure thing?"

"Sure thing."

"Lock?"

"Lock, stock and barrel ... who you calling on my dime, Dog?"

Dog held up his clawlike mitt to me in talk-to-the-hand fashion.

"... yo, Rocco. Yeah. Just talked to Dub. Got the scoop. Put me down for five. Gimme the Niners plus seven against the Rams ..."

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."