Boston sports fans, this is a public service announcement. Watch Boston College running back Andre Williams this Saturday against Syracuse. I know many of you have ignored BC football all season. It’s OK, there have been many distractions — the irreversible aging of Tom Brady (eye roll), the Red Sox’ chicken soup-for-the-baseball soul World Series run (grin), the to-tank or not-to-tank dilemma of the Celtics (wink).
But we can’t refer to our Hub of Hardware as the best sports city in America if we have the Heisman Trophy winner in our midst, and he is less well known than an exuberant police officer celebrating home runs in the Red Sox bullpen. No offense, Steve Horgan.
As a fanatical college football follower it pains me to admit it, but this is a passionate professional sports town first, last, and always. It’s an indifferent college sports town, unless there is something or someone special that forces an exception. BC’s Williams, who has already topped 2,000 yards for the season and is the nation’s leading rusher, is exception-worthy and just plain exceptional.
The senior running back, No. 44 in your program (that’s Doug Flutie’s BC number doubled), is among the leading contenders to win the Heisman, one of the most recognizable and renowned awards in all of sports. HeismanPundit.com, which conducts a weekly straw poll with 10 Heisman voters and ESPN’s “Heisman Watch” both have Williams second in the race to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
The field of contenders has been winnowed in recent weeks, leaving Winston, Williams, and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron as the leading candidates.
McCarron has won back-to-back national titles at Alabama. But it’s difficult to discern just how much of McCarron’s success is based on his ability and how much is based on the quasi-NFL team Nick Saban has built. A lot of folks would look good quarterbacking the NFL’s unofficial 33d team.
Like a political election, this year’s Heisman balloting, which will be announced Dec. 14 at the Downtown Athletic Club, is complicated by a scandal. Winston, the front-runner, has been accused of sexual assaulting a woman last December.
State Attorney for Florida’s second judicial circuit Willie Meggs and his office haven’t decided whether they have enough evidence to charge Winston yet, but human nature dictates that some Heisman voters will be reluctant to vote for him with such a serious crime hovering over his season.
Whether Winston is charged or not, Williams has a compelling case for the stiff-arm statuette. Every Saturday this season has seemed like ’Dre Day for BC.
Williams leads the nation in rushing yards (2,073), rushing yards per game (188.5), and rushing attempts (320). His season rushing total is already a Boston College and ACC record.
In 11 games, he has more net yards rushing than Texas A&M, Georgia, Penn State, Clemson, and Texas.
He has rushed for an obscene 1,063 yards and eight touchdowns in his last four games, including an ACC- and school-record 339 yards against North Carolina State Nov. 16. That broke the school mark he set the week before with 295 yards against New Mexico.
He has five 200-yard rushing performances this season. Williams has 17 runs of 30 yards or more this season. No other player in major college football has double digits in that category.
Oh, yeah, he has run for 16 touchdowns for those who are into that.
Run Away Andre is the 16th player in Football Bowl Subdivision (nee Division 1) history to top 2,000 yards rushing in a season, joining such exalted names as Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Ricky Williams.
In Austin, or Columbus, Tuscaloosa, or even Los Angeles, Williams and his Heisman-worthy season would be a topic du jour. While the 6-foot, 227-pound Williams has run through, around, and past opponents this season, he has flown under the radar, overshadowed by the manufactured pro sports debates of the day.
The most talked about BC football player in these parts has been Luke Kuechly, the former Eagles linebacker who got away with the crime of the century when he grabbed Gronk in the back of the end zone on the final play of the Patriots’ controversial 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Chestnut Hill will never be confused with Ann Arbor, Mich., or Athens, Ga. In those places, they don’t have to tackle tailgaters and force them to go into the stadium to watch the game they ostensibly came to see.
BC fans are notorious for being tardy to kickoff, so how could noncollege football fans not be a little late in picking up on Williams’s run for the Heisman.
BC is trying to get out the vote for Andre 2000 using Twitter, where each day athletic director Brad Bates sends out a Williams-related tweet with #Andre44Heisman.
He could add #rushtogreatness and #watchthiskid.
A bona fide Heisman Trophy contender in these parts is as rare as a Boston resident willing to surrender their parking space in the wake of a snowstorm.
It’s been 29 years since Flutie captivated the college football world with his Heisman Trophy-winning season at the Heights. The legendary Lilliputian quarterback is the only BC player to win the award.
Since Flutie, the best finish by a BC player in the Heisman voting was Glenn Foley, who finished fifth in 1993. Matt Ryan was seventh in 2007.
The highest finish by a Massachusetts college football players since Flutie belongs to Holy Cross star Gordie Lockbaum, who was third in the 1987 Heisman balloting. Lockbaum also placed fifth in 1986.
We’ve seen many trophies won in these parts since 2002, but not a Heisman.
So stop giving college sports the stiff-arm because watching Williams’s pursuit of the Heisman is a worthy pursuit for any dedicated Boston sports fan.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.