Troy Of Columbus: Smith Is Runaway Winner Of The 2006 Heisman

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: December 10, 2006

NEW YORK — The 72nd Heisman Trophy was handed out Saturday night at the Nokia Theater in Times Square. As expected senior QB Troy Smith of Ohio State was the landslide winner of the award, appearing on 99% of the ballots.

Smith coolly waited for his name to be announced and took his place as the first Buckeye quarterback and the school’s sixth overall winner to take home the award.

Arkansas running back Darren McFadden (878) finished second, Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn (782) was surprisingly third and West Virginia running back Steve Slaton (214) was fourth.

In a year in which he has made throwing touchdown passes and leading his team into the national championship game look very easy, it is only fitting that the Cleveland native should take home the award.

Smith received 801 votes and 86.7 percent of the first-place votes, which broke last year’s record of 84.9 percent for Reggie Bush. Smith also came close to the long standing first place votes (855) and margin between first and second (1,750 points) records of O.J. Simpson from 1968.

Smith spoke eloquently about his journey from the mean streets of Cleveland to Ohio State and then the Heisman Trophy. Normally unfazed by pressure, Smith admitted to being charged for the award when he said “Normally, I’m pretty cool in pressure situations, but my heart is pounding so fast now” as he first went to the podium.

He thanked his mother, sister, and mentor/father figure Ted Ginn Sr, who helped nurture Smith from a foster home upbringing. Smith said that he wanted to use the award to show others from the Glenville area of Cleveland that good things can come from the area and that you can make it out and achieve.

Smith said that he would embrace the responsibility of the award and that the expectations would similar to ones he has faced as Ohio State University’s quarterback and leader.

Though there is no signature play for Smith like Bush’s jump back playstation moves from last year, he has a highlight reel of championship level quarterback play (25-2 as a starter).

His pre-bowl numbers are impressive (67 percent completions, 2,507 yards, 30 touchdowns, five interceptions), but it’s his ability to play in big pressure games and his veteran leadership that impress me most.

A self described “knucklehead” early in his Ohio State career, Smith has grown from adversity including long talks with Head Coach Jim Tressel about his attitude and being suspended for 2005 Alamo Bowl for dealings with a booster.

He now gives the credit first to his teammates including this year’s Heisman and prides himself on being the Buckeyes leader each week when the pressure is on.

His “big game” pedigree includes the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, where Smith outclassed this year’s Heisman third place finisher Quinn. Smith finished with 342 passing yards, 2TDs passing and was named the game’s MVP in OSU’s 34-20 win.

Also, the September 9th win at then No. 2 Texas, and three straight victories over bitter rival Michigan. In the 2006 Game of the Year pitting No. 1 OSU vs. No. 2 Michigan, Smith never flinched taking apart the vaunted Wolverines’ defense for 316 yards and four TD’s proving that he is an all-time Big Ten great at the quarterback position.

Some will question if Smith would have won the Heisman in such a lopsided fashion if high profile potential candidates tailbacks Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma) and Michael Bush (Louisville) did not go down with season-ending injuries.

However, history has shown quarterbacks that have led a No. 1 ranked team into the national championship game usually have an above average of taking home the award (i.e., Charlie Ward in 1993 and Matt Leinart in 2004).

Now that Smith has finished the banquet circuit (he also won the Davey O’ Brien Award on Thursday), he can now prepare to lead top-ranked Ohio State (12-0) into the BCS Championship game to play SEC Champion Florida in Glendale, Arizona on January 8, 2007.

Smith hopes to join Charlie Ward (1993), Danny Wuerffel (1996), Chris Weinke (1999), and Matt Leinart (2004) as quarterbacks, who won the Heisman and National Championship in the same season.