A couple of guys named Glantz and Culver from Las Vegas just released the odds on the top college players winning the 1987 Heisman Trophy, and their predicted order of finish was most disappointing.
Not surprisingly, Gaston Green of UCLA, Tim Brown of Notre Dame and Michigan State's Lorenzo White -- all running backs at big-time schools with plenty of national TV exposure -- are given the best chances of coming away with college football's most prestigious award. If you keep going down the list, past Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell and someone named Mike Perez, a quarterback from San Jose State, you come to the sixth name and your eyes pop. Gordie Lockbaum.
Isn't Gordie Lockbaum the same guy who played on offense, defense and special teams last year for Holy Cross? Isn't this the same guy who rushed for 827 yards, caught 57 passes and made 46 tackles? Isn't this the same player who during Saturday afternoon halftimes has to attend both the offensive and defensive position meetings?
How can a man who in one game last season carried the ball for 73 yards as a tailback, made 19 solo tackles as a cornerback and saved the game by breaking up a pass in the final minutes, enter the season with only a 12-1 shot at winning the Heisman Trophy?
Of course, a lot of people in college football already have put an asterisk by Lockbaum's name because he plays for Holy Cross, a Division I-AA school. Sport Magazine has declared that Lockbaum doesn't even deserve consideration, because he gets his yards and makes his tackles against players from Colgate, Dartmouth and William and Mary, not Oklahoma.
The argument is that he's not playing against the best, so he shouldn't be considered for an honor that supposedly goes to the best. One problem. The award, as stated right there on the hardware, says "Outstanding College Football Player in the United States." It says nothing about "the best."
A spokesperson at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York also said the other day that there is nothing stating that the winner has to come from a Division I-A school, that the only "requirement" is that the player be an undergraduate of a recognized college or university.
One of the problems with the Heisman is that most of the recognition goes to players at made-for-TV schools. That might explain why Walter Payton -- another Division I-AA player -- went almost unnoticed by Heisman voters.
This season Green, Brown, White and Bell all deserve strong consideration. Green gained 1,405 yards last year and scored 17 touchdowns. He averaged 164.4 yards over the final seven games. And UCLA is a national championship contender. Notre Dame's Brown caught 45 passes for 910 yards last season.
But their stats, regardless of the teams they face, don't overshadow anything Lockbaum has done. In fact, Lockbaum already has done things none of them will accomplish. Any reasonable way that you define "outstanding" has to include him.
Just consider the number of plays in a game. If Green -- who will not return kicks or punts this season -- is on the field for three-fourths of all his team's offensive plays, it means he'll be on the field about 50 plays per game, max. Same for White. Brown, because he has two roles, might be on for 90 percent of his team's offensive plays. Bell will be closer to 100 percent of the offensive plays, but more than half of his plays will be mere handoffs.
Against Army -- a Division I-A school, by the way -- Lockbaum took part in 143 plays. That's about two weeks worth for anybody else in the country. That was the game where Lockbaum had 19 solo tackles. The very next week, Lockbaum came back for 111 plays. Against another I-A team, Boston College, he was in for 113 plays. Among them: 10 receptions, 233 all-purpose yards, one fumble-caused, one punt downed on the one-yard line. Let's see Kerwin Bell try that.
And it's not like Lockbaum is just out there for those 93 plays per game. He averaged 9.7 yards every time he touched the ball and accounted for 55 percent of Holy Cross' touchdowns.
The Heisman Trophy isn't supposed to be awarded as a forecast of a player's professional potential. If so, Nebraska's Mike Rozier and perhaps even Boston College's Doug Flutie wouldn't have been selected. And it should be unthinkable to penalize a player because he selects a school where he can play competitive football and still find the time to compile a 3.167 grade point average as an economics major.
Last December, Lockbaum finished fifth in the Heisman voting, behind winner Vinny Testaverde. But he received the second-highest number of first place votes -- more than Brian Bosworth, Paul Palmer, Jim Harbaugh or Brent Fullwood. Maybe the voters are waking up, after all. If he continues to play offense, defense, return kicks and punts, line up on the punt-block team and serve as the designated punt blocker, his odds with this Heisman voter will be a lot closer to even.