After emerging as a dark-horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy with a spirited stretch run, the perception was Boston College running back Andre Williams fell from contention when he pulled up with a right shoulder injury in Saturday’s 34-31 setback at Syracuse.
“If that’s the perception, then let’s look at the reality,’’ said first-year BC coach Steve Addazio.
During his dissection Monday of BC’s 7-5 regular season, Addazio, the architect of the Eagles’ turnaround from a two-win team in 2012 to a squad that became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010, spoke on Williams’s behalf.
“He completed the ninth-best rushing season in the history of college football,’’ Addazio thundered about the 6-foot, 227-pound senior from Schnecksville, Pa., who totaled 2,102 yards and 17 touchdowns on 329 carries. “I’m going to say that again: He completed the ninth-best rushing season . . . in . . . the . . . history . . . of . . . college . . . football.’’
While Addazio was directing his comments to Heisman voters, many of whom still may be on the fence about Williams, the coach was preaching to the choir when it came to the 65 panelists of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, who Monday made Williams the lone unanimous selection to the All-ACC first team.
Eight other BC players were recognized with All-ACC honors, including linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and kicker Nate Freese, who joined Williams on the first team. Left tackle Matt Patchan was selected to the second team, and wide receiver Alex Amidon, defensive end Kasim Edebali, center Andy Gallik, and linebacker Steele Divitto were third-team selections. Right tackle Ian White garnered honorable mention.
Williams, the nation’s leading rusher and Doak Walker Award finalist, garnered an All-ACC-high 195 points, 4 more than Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the apparent Heisman favorite. But Winston’s lingering off-field problems regarding an alleged sexual assault have left some voters conflicted about even putting him on the ballot.
Williams is a strong candidate to win ACC Offensive and Player of the Year honors over Winston (the winners will be announced Wednesday), making the ACSMA ballot a possible litmus test for Heisman voting.
If character issues are to be given any weight, Addazio said Williams personifies the Heisman Trophy’s mission statement. The coach made his point by reading aloud an excerpted portion of that statement: “Outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.’’
“I would say that Andre Williams absolutely fits that,’’ Addazio said.
But the perception seems to be that Williams’s injury, suffered after a 5-yard carry on the first play of the second half, seemed to derail his candidacy.
“Certainly, an injury is an injury, but in 11 games you have the ninth-best rushing season in the history of college football,’’ Addazio said, citing that only four Heisman Trophy winners — Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen, Mike Rozier, and Ricky Williams — had better statistical seasons than his guy. “I think that’s pretty remarkable.’’
Williams, who entered the season finale averaging 188.5 yards per game, was held to a season-low 29 yards on nine carries. He left the game and never returned after aggravating a shoulder injury that had nagged him since BC’s home finale against North Carolina State.
“I think the seniors left a legacy here and put Boston College football back on the map and really did it with class and integrity,’’ Addazio said. “We are looking forward to playing our 13th game and having a chance to get our eighth win. We are definitely enjoying the opportunity ahead of us and feel that our team represented Boston College in the right way.”
About Williams, who is expected to be ready for the Eagles’ bowl game, Addazio added, “I think he represents what Boston College stands for. That’s why I wanted to re-read that mission statement, because I really believe it in my heart. I’ve been around a lot of different players in my career and I just think when you have a guy who represents all we hold dear in college football, I think those are things [that] should be held in high esteem.”