Ty Detmer, the latest in a long line of great Brigham Young quarterbacks, outdid them all Saturday by winning the Heisman Trophy.
Detmer, who has set or tied 25 NCAA passing and total offense records, became the first BYU player and third consecutive junior to win college football's most important award.Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, Notre Dame's all-purpose star, finished second. Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy was third, followed by Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore and Houston quarterback David Klingler.
Ismail, Bieniemy and Moore were present at the Downtown Athletic Club, where the ceremony was televised live by CBS. Detmer was in Honolulu, where he was preparing for BYU's regular-season finale against Hawaii.
Wearing a lei around his neck and surrounded by his teammates, Detmer broke into a wide grin when the word came.
"We've had great quarterbacks in the past and none of them won it. It's about time we won one," he said via satellite hook-up.
BYU's rich quarterback tradition began with Virgil Carter in the mid-1960s and continued with stars such as Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Robbie Bosco. Young was runner-up to Nebraska's Mike Rozier for the 1983 Heisman, while Wilson, McMahon and Bosco each finished third.
"You try to picture yourself in this position, but you really can't imagine it," Detmer said.
He received 316 first-place votes and 1,482 points in nationwide voting by 917 sports journalists and former Heisman winners. Ismail got 237 first-place votes and 1,177 points. Next were Bieniemy (114 and 798), Moore (46 and 465) and Klingler (7 and 125).
Players receive three points for a first-place vote, two for second and one for third.
Rounding out the Top 10 finishers were wide receiver Herman Moore of Virginia, running back Greg Lewis of Washington, quarterback Craig Erickson of Miami, running backs Darren Lewis of Texas A&M and Mike Mayweather of Army. Erickson and Darren Lewis tied for eighth with 31 points each.
Detmer carried all six regions of the country. His biggest margins were in the Southwest and Far West, while the closest voting was in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. Detmer and Ismail finished 1-2 in every region except the Southwest where Bieniemy was runner-up and Ismail was third.
Detmer, a 6-foot, 175-pound native of San Antonio, is the 10th underclassman to win the award. The recent streak of junior winners includes Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State in 1988 and Andre Ware of Houston in 1989.
Sanders and Ware skipped their senior seasons to join the NFL, but Detmer insists he will return to BYU next year.
"I'll be back next year," he said. "I committed when I took my scholarship. I haven't even explored the possibility of the NFL."
Detmer's parents got the news in Kingsville, Texas, where father Sonny was getting ready to coach in the state high school football playoffs. His other son, Koy, was quarterbacking.
"We've been rooting for you the whole time," Detmer's father told him via satellite hookup during the CBS telecast. "You've done everything you can to win it."
Detmer, who has thrown for more than 300 yards in 23 consecutive games, reminds many people of a great quarterback who didn't play at BYU.
"He's like Joe Montana," BYU tight end Chris Smith says. "He's not the biggest, strongest guy in the world, but he gets the job done. No matter what the situation is, Ty will find a way to win."
If he plays another year, Detmer could break virtually every NCAA career passing record.
Heading into the Hawaii game, Detmer needed 272 yards to top the single-season yardage record of 5,140 set by Klingler earlier in the day. Detmer is already second on the NCAA's career yardage list with 10,681 - 744 behind all-time leader Todd Santos of San Diego State - and needs only two touchdown passes to break McMahon's career mark of 84.
While Detmer impressed voters with his sensational stats, Ismail gained support with his versatility, speed and flair for the big play.
"I'm very relieved," Ismail said minutes after the announcement.