Jameis Winston, of Florida State, ran away with the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. But for those of us who embrace the underdog and favor the little guy there was a bigger story - Jordan Lynch. Lynch, Northern Illinois' first Heisman finalist, finished with 40 first place votes and 558 points, behind Winston and A.J. McCarron of Alabama.
Coming out of Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago, Lynch was ranked a two-star recruit and received just one scholarship offer - from the Huskies. After backing up Chandler Harnish for two years, he got his shot and delivered. Last year later he finished seventh in the voting. This year, he upped the ante, becoming one of only three MAC players to ever be invited to New York for the ceremony.
His third place finish is the best for an NIU player ever, edging LeShon Johnson's sixth place finish in 1993. But more than that, it is tied for the highest by a non-AQ player EVER. Colt Brennan, of Hawaii, also finished in third place back in 2007. It is also the best finish for a MAC player ever. Way, way back in 1997, Marshall had a player by the name of Randy Moss (you might have heard of him) that garnered an invite to New York. He finished in fourth . Just two years later Marshall's Chad Pennington finished in fifth . But Lynch topped them all, and by a wide margin. Moss received just 253 points (305 less than Lynch) and Pennington finished with 247 points (311 less than Lynch). In another interesting fact, Lynch is the first player from an Illinois university to reach the Heisman ceremony since 2000, when Damien Anderson of Northwestern made it. He is also only one of three players from the state of Illinois to receive votes in two seasons, joining Darnell Autry (Northwestern, 1995-96) and Dick Butkus (Illinois, 1963-64).
But more important than the numbers and stats is the exposure that he has generated. Lynch is probably one of, if not the most, recognized and talked about players outside of the power conferences, which should help him, NIU, and the MAC in general. Lynch has done more for the MAC in the past year than almost anybody else. He lead the Huskies to an Orange Bowl birth last year, garnering more attention for the MAC...although not all of it was positive (Herbstreit, Pollock, and Palmer we're looking at you). Then for an encore this season he almost led them back to the BCS and nearly got himself the Heisman trophy. The MAC, and the Huskies, have not been this talked about since the Marshall years, when the Herd, Bowling Green, and Miami we're all consistently ranked in, or near, the top-25.
Although Lynch didn't win the Heisman (he did win a more important award though), the buzz Lynch has generated will have a positive and, hopefully, lasting effect for NIU and the MAC overall. As to how big and to what extent, only time will tell. But there is no doubt, the MAC has never had such a spotlight on it. And that leads to better players, which means better competition and better games, which leads to an overall better conference. And that is something we can all enjoy.
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