By Ryan Decker
The most esteemed award in college athletics is the Heisman Trophy.
Countless former Heisman winners have gone on to have solid NFL careers. Nine have had careers so impressive at the next level that they will be forever remembered at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Those careers, though, were jet streamed to stardom thanks to at least one impressive college season; a season in which media members believed they were the best player in all of College Football.
Unlike the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award, there aren’t a lot of repeat Heisman winners.
In fact, only Ohio State’s Archie Griffin has won the award twice.
Not only is it college football’s toughest award to win once, let alone multiple times, but it’s also the toughest impress for the season after you were in the running for it.
Why is that?
Well, here are five reasons why we shouldn’t expect repeat performances from last year’s Heisman candidates.
There’s a “new guy on the block” every year
College football reloads with talent every year.
The guy who was the best, or even one of the three or four best players, last year, may not even be in the top five or six the year afterwards.
Every year, countless four- and five-star recruits find their way onto the field in starting role, and take the world by storm.
It’s hard for individual players, especially at the skill positions where Heisman trophies are won and lost, to stay ahead of everyone else for too long.
Once they are, they have the target on their back and everyone is coming for them.
The tape is out
Every team the Heisman candidates from a year ago will face this time around have seen the highlights.
They’ve seen the tape and heard the hype surrounding him. Motivation to shut down a highly touted opponent cannot be overlooked.
Any tendencies that were overlooked from a year ago, are written in big letter on the top of the whiteboard in the locker room this year.
Conference opponents know the player. Opponents from outside the conference, especially those from other Power-5 conferences, have players with the ability to contain him better than most.
The “Heisman moment” already happened
Like most other MVP-type awards, in order to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, a player has to have a great season.
Maybe just as importantly, though, is for the player to have a signature moment or play that, if deemed the winner, will be the moment fans think back to every time his name comes up in conversation.
This moment is always unique.
It happened in the moment when his team needed him the most.
For returning players that were in the Heisman race once before, that season has already happened. The mystique surrounding them has already disappeared somewhat.
“Haven’t we seen this before?”
This is similar to reason number three, but a separate reason in its own right.
To a degree, the mystique is gone. There’s not a whole lot last year’s candidate can do to surprise us.
Touchdown passes won’t look as good; scoring runs will have lost some flare; big returns for some reason just won’t be as exciting.
Unless the player does something truly incredible – something that no one has seen before – fans’ jaws won’t hit the ground as hard.
Expectations are too high
Expectations for players aren’t all that different from expectations that surround teams.
When a team wins a championship, they are expected to repeat the next year. If a team is on the brink of winning it all, the next year is looked at to be their year to go all the way.
It’s no different for players.
Last year, for example, players like Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette, Deshaun Watson, and J.T. Barrett were all in the running for the Heisman. McCaffrey and Watson were finalists along with last year’s winner, Alabama running back Derrick Henry.
All of those players but Henry returned for another year of college football this season.
According to ESPN.com’s Heisman Watch, McCaffrey, who broke Barry Sanders‘ single-season all-purpose yards record last year, was in second place in the Heisman race heading into this weekend’s slate of game. Washington held the Stanford star running back to just 49 rushing and 30 receiving yards, likely knocking him out of the Heisman race.
Watson took his team to the NCAA Championship last season, but his Clemson Tiger offense had been lackluster the first few weeks of the season. Fournette was the best running back in the nation the first half of the season, and then he ran into an Alabama defensive line that didn’t let him go. He also lost his head coach after last week’s loss.
For Fournette, McCaffrey and Watson especially, our expectations may have been too high coming in.
It would be nearly impossibly for McCaffrey to duplicate or improve upon his performance from a season ago. Same goes with Watson and Fournette.
That’s the reality of the situation though. They may not be able to duplicate it, but voters want to see them try.