LSU’s Jayden Daniels won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night. After a controversial playoff debate, this was a unifying night in college football.
In college football, how often do we all get to gather together, and just for a moment, agree on something?
It’s awfully rare.
On Saturday night, however, we got to do that. After all that controversy over the College Football Playoff’s bracket, Jayden Daniels’ Heisman Trophy victory was something the college football world needed.
“We hope it makes you feel good about the sport of college football. It can be tumultuous at times, but this was a feel-good night”. Those were the words of Chris Fowler as he closed the broadcast of the Heisman ceremony, and he couldn’t have put it better.
Of course, not everyone will be thrilled by the result. Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. won the ESPN fan vote, likely on the strength of the Husky fan base, as they dominated the social media platforms as the award show aired. That fan base will likely be upset that their guy didn’t win, and the same can be said for Oregon and Ohio State fans. It’s a completely fair reaction for a fan to have.
None of those fan bases will be crying conspiracy, though. This was a tremendous Heisman race, and while whoever won it would have been deserving, Jayden Daniels had a special 2023 that absolutely no one can argue against.
He had one of the best dual-threat Heisman campaigns since Cam Newton in 2010. Daniels threw for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns compared to just 4 interceptions, and he added 1,134 yards and 10 scores on the ground. He averaged 11.7 yards per passing attempt and a staggering 8.4 yards per rush.
Against Florida, Daniels became the first FBS quarterback to throw for at least 350 yards and rush for at least 200. He also won classic shootouts against Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Missouri.
All the way through, he was likable, entertaining, and downright impressive. Seemingly every week, he did something that lit social media up.
He was also resilient. Early in the season, he was a bit of a punching bag at times, both on the field and on social media. He took some massive hits when he tucked the ball and ran, and fans were always there to post and repost the video:
What did Daniels do? Well, clearly, he fixed it. He got up off the canvas, brushed himself off, and frankly, after covering a big chunk of LSU’s season, I don’t think he ever got hit like that after September.
His team was 9-3, but frankly, they would have been 7-5 without Daniels at quarterback. The LSU defense faltered often, and the team was on his back time and time again.
He had the kind of season, tough and gritty, that fans latch onto.
College football fans will never universally agree on anything, but on Saturday, it feels like at least 75 percent of us heard Jayden Daniels’ name get announced and thought that, yep, that guy deserved that award. After the College Football Playoff’s final rankings and the existential debate that it sent so many fans across the country into, something like this was much needed.
Saturday night was a great night for college football. While the sport remains in a status that feels constantly transformational, it is important to remember that its heart will always lie here, in the players who play it at a high level.
As long as we have guys like Jayden Daniels, this sport will be in good shape.