Napoleon McCallum of Navy got my vote for the 1985 Heisman Trophy being awarded tonight in New York by the Downtown Athletic Club.
McCallum won't be at the banquet for a couple of reasons, the most important being that he wasn't invited. Only five candidates were given the okay to rent tuxedos, shine their bluchers and come on down: Robbie Bosco of Brigham Young, Vinny Testaverde of Miami, Lorenzo White of Michigan State, Chuck Long of Iowa and Bo Jackson of Auburn.
The list is not compelling.
Come Saturday afternoon at 5, McCallum will be at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, playing in the last few minutes of what will be his last football game for the U.S. Naval Academy. The Midshipmen take on Army at 2:30 p.m., and should be winding it down by the time the announcement's made that Jackson is the nation's outstanding college football player.
After the presentation, you'll learn that Jackson overcame a deluge of criticism to edge Long in one of the closest ballots in recent memory. You'll be reminded that Jackson might have made a million playing center field for the California Angels but chose to remain at Auburn one more year and play the game he loves most, and that he clinched the award by taking on Alabama with two cracked ribs and still rushed for 142 yards.
Bo Jackson ran for 1,786 yards this season, 676 more than McCallum. But I didn't think much about that when I wrote Nap's name on my ballot. McCallum is the fellow who leaves Navy as the owner of 26 school records, the one who broke an NCAA mark with 6,896 all-purpose yards. But I didn't think much about that either.
Unlike some of the other candidates, McCallum lasted an entire season without someone questioning his heart and courage. His Heisman campaign was fueled by those coaches and players who said he was the best power runner they'd faced all year, even if he did play for a less-than-formidable team. Mine was a vote for something that covers more ground than Bo Jackson ever could against the Ragin' Cajuns of Southwestern Louisiana. It was for the effort one person made for his school and the mark of goodness he left. In a season clouded with broken promises, McCallum stood for everything that once was right about the college game. He loved what he was doing, and he had fun.
Although he has gained well over 1,000 yards and earned near-legendary status at the Academy, he described his season as "so-so" and "somewhat disappointing," perhaps in apology for his team's dismal 3-7 record. The Midshipmen lost five games by a total of 15 points, and McCallum, whose play went unrecognized by the lot of people who decide such things, dropped out of the Heisman picture. "Right until the last second," he said, "until we lost, it was always fun. It was the losses themselves that were hard to take."
Bo Jackson also knows what it means to lose. Auburn lost the three most important games on its schedule -- Tennessee, Florida and Alabama -- and fell comfortably to a middle position in the Top 20. In the Tennessee and Florida games, Jackson pulled himself from the crucible and complained of being injured. He suffered a bruised knee against the Volunteers and totaled 80 yards. The Gators limited him to 48 yards in the first half and hastened his retreat to the sideline with what he described as "spasms" in his thigh. After the game, some Florida players said Jackson was playing as if he knew he'd already won the Heisman and didn't want to get hurt. His coach, Pat Dye, said that was a bunch of hogwash.
Chuck Long, the Iowa quarterback, might have edged Jackson had he not performed so poorly against Ohio State on national television. The Hawkeyes lost that game in the rain, 22-13, and Long threw four interceptions. Iowa lost its No. 1 standing in the polls and a current of dissenting opinion charged that two other Big 10 quarterbacks -- Jim Everett of Purdue and Jack Trudeau of Illinois -- along with Bosco and Testaverde, were better than Long.
"I know a lot of people will look at our 10-1 season and that will help in the voting," Long said. "They don't give the Heisman to a player on a 3-8 team."
The Midshipmen may end up 3-8. I say McCallum deserves it anyway.