NEW YORK - Mark Ingram became the first Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night. But it was finalists Toby Gerhart of Stanford and Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska providing the event with its electricity and suspense.
Ingram's credentials were hard to dispute. As the leading rusher on the nation's No. 1 team, he was a safe choice as the Heisman winner.
But what captivated Heisman voters were the unusual paths taken by Gerhart and Suh.
Not often will you find a Heisman finalist like Gerhart: a two-sport athlete and such a devoted student that he's carrying 21 credit hours — majoring in management, science and engineering — and still finding the time to lead the nation in rushing yards (1,736).
Then there was Suh, who played soccer exclusively until the eighth grade before becoming one of the most dominant defensive tackles — a position routinely ignored in the Heisman voting — ever in college football.
Gerhart, an outfielder for the past three years on the Stanford baseball team, averaged 5.6 yards a carry and led all running backs with 26 touchdowns. He had a big finale, rushing for 205 yards and three touchdowns, and throwing a pass for a touchdown in a nationally televised win over Notre Dame.
Gerhart said he is grateful to Stanford for giving him an opportunity to play running back when no other school would.
"That's what I was looking for in a school when I was being recruited," he said.
"Her biggest thing is, she didn't want me to get hurt," he said. "And that's understandable. No mother wants her child to get hurt. But I told her basically that I was going to be the one hurting somebody."
Just ask Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who finished third in the Heisman voting. Suh had a career-high 12 tackles, including a school-record seven for loss, and 4 1/2 sacks in Nebraska's 13-12 loss to Texas in the Big 12 championship game a week earlier.
That Suh, who had 82 tackles, 23 for losses and 12 sacks, placed as high as he did is incredible, given the lack of support historically for defensive players in the Heisman voting. Charles Woodson of Michigan, who won the Heisman in 1997, is the only defender to ever win the award.
Suh said he hopes his success and the attention he has received as a defensive lineman will make the position more attractive to future players.
"I sure hope it does," he said. "I hope defensive linemen now understand they have a real chance to win a prestigious award such as this."
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
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