Putting the 'Man' in Heisman
The greatest weekend of college football in recent memory was built around a single epicenter – another legendary addition to the USC-Notre Dame rivalry.
USC’s victory over Notre Dame was lots of things. It was Reggie Bush’s rise to Heisman front-runner (sorry Vince, tearing up Colorado isn’t exactly on the same level), it was both teams rising up to the biggest challenge they’ll have all year and it was the first time a game of this magnitude has actually exceeded its hype.
More than anything else, it was one man dropping the H-E-I-S and proving to be more than a quarterback or a leader. In the closing minutes of the game, Matt Leinart was a man.
Even the greatest players struggle, but the ones who overcome when their teams need them the most are remembered as legends, and on USC’s final drive Leinart definitely rose to the challenge, and then some.
Beaten up and unable to compete a meaningful pass all game, Leinart came to life with a huge completion to Dwayne Jarrett and an Elway-esque set of efforts to will his team into the end zone.
Throughout the season, and especially in the past week of hype and buildup, Leinart has flown under the radar, an impressive task for a Heisman Trophy winner. Coverage of USC became more homogenous as the season progressed. Reggie is awesome, White is just as awesome and unappreciated, they’re a second half team and the defense needs work.
Underneath all that, Leinart stood alone, doing his job every week and having a good time along the way. After all, that’s why he returned to school, right? Why leave a great situation for some money if you’re enjoying yourself and the money will be there anyway?
As Leinart spun into the endzone, center Ryan Kalil embraced him, primarily to celebrate but perhaps also to keep him on his feet. When the final seconds ran out, the press surrounded him as a glazed over look in his eyes made you understand the meaning of “leaving it all out on the field.”
“We don’t know how to lose,” Leinart said to reporters as he marched off the field and the Fighting Irish fans in South Bend wondered how exactly USC managed to win, but the answer was right in front of them.
A Heisman-winning quarterback proving himself to the entire country. Sure, it’s not something you see every day and there’s no reason he should have to prove anything, but in a game of this magnitude, everybody’s got something to live up to.
For Leinart, it’s his legacy, currently in progress.
Written by Alex Delanian.