John W. Heisman, the inventor of football's forward pass, may now rest easy in his grave. A quarterback from Brigham Young University - also known as Pass U., and the school that perfected his invention - finally won the award named for him.
The Downtown Athletic Club awarded Ty Detmer the Heisman Trophy as the country's outstanding college football player, in a nationally televised ceremony Saturday.Detmer immediately proclaimed it a victory not only for himself, but also for BYU, the state of Utah and especially the other great BYU quarterbacks who came close to winning the award.
"I think they kind of set the way for us. They had great seasons in the past. . . . They got the recognition that set everything off. And now it's coming true for BYU and all of Utah," Detmer told reporters in New York via satellite from Honolulu, where he was preparing for a late-night game against Hawaii.
Detmer won a solid 305-point victory, with 1,482 points compared with 1,177 for second-place Raghib Ismail, a Notre Damerunning back. Detmer also finished first in every region of the country.
Naturally, he had his strongest showing in his home Far West region, where he had 267 points to Ismail's 175. And he did poorest in Ismail's home Midwest, receiving 234 points to Ismail's 226.
Detmer was chosen by a group of 870 sports writers and 47 Heisman winners, who submit ballots with their first, second and third choices. Detmer received 316 first-place votes, 208 for second place and 118 for third.
Besides becoming BYU's first Heisman winner ever, he also becomes the first Heisman winner from a school in the Mountain States and only the eighth from the Far West. He also becomes the 10th junior to win the award in its 56-year history.
Even though the past two winners - Houston's Andre Ware in 1989 and Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders in 1988 - were juniors, they did not try to win a second Heisman in their senior years because they turned professional.
But Detmer vowed, "I'll be back next year. . . I'm committed." Only one person has ever won two Heisman awards - Ohio State's Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975.
Detmer had something else in common with Ware and Sanders - it was the third consecutive year that the Heisman winner had to accept it via satellite because of out-of-state games.
Detmer - wearing a golf shirt and lei - watched on TV in Hawaii as his name was announced. He thrust his arm into the air victoriously and received hugs from Coach LaVell Edwards and BYU Athletic Director Glenn Tuckett. His parents in Texas hugged and kissed each other and wept.
Why did he feel he won?
"I think we put up the numbers every week. We were consistent. We're No. 4 in the nation. We just had a great year. Everything just fell into place for us," he said. "And we played a great game to Miami at the beginning of the year."
About the many BYU quarterbacks who finished in the top 10 in Heisman balloting without winning - Gary Sheide, Gifford Nielson, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Robbie Bosco - Detmer said, "They had great seasons, and a couple of them maybe should have won it. But now it is just a great thrill to be part of BYU."
He added that maybe playing out West and in the perceived-to-be-weak Western Athletic Conference hurt the others. "But our image is improving now," he said.
Among the people who Detmer impressed during the year was second-place finisher "Rocket" Ismail. "I would have voted for Detmer," he told reporters.
When asked why he wouldn't have voted for himself, the timid Ismail said, "I just wouldn't." He added that he has never seen Detmer play, though, but has seen some of his highlight films.
He also met him last summer, and said, "He is a very nice person. I like him a lot."
Another person impressed with Detmer is third-place finisher Eric Bieniemy of Colorado. "I played against him two years in the Freedom Bowl. He came in and - I hate to say this - but he destroyed us. There's no doubt, he is a great quarterback and a great athlete."
Fourth-place finisher Shawn Moore also had words of praise for Detmer but was more restrained. "He's poised. He's an effective quarterback. He gets the job done."
Detmer won the award even though two other quarterbacks had better statistics - at least until Detmer finished in Hawaii.
Moore was ahead of Detmer in passing efficiency by a point, 160.7 to 159.7. And fifth-place finisher David Klingler of Houston led Detmer in passing yardage and touchdowns.
While Detmer could not attend ceremonies Saturday, he will come to New York next Wednesday and Thursday for a dance and dinner honoring him at the Downtown Athletic Club.
He also will have several busy days with interviews already scheduled on "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America" television shows.
It should all please Heisman. He led the fight to legalize the forward pass, thinking it would help prevent rough play that was developing.
The forward pass was legalized in 1906, over objections by Rules Committee Chairman Walter Camp.
The Camp Award for outstanding player was won earlier this week by Ismail - a running back. And now Detmer wins the award named for the pass-inventing Heisman.