The Heisman Trophy is awarded to the college football player who can change the outcome of a game anytime he touches the ball, LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu fits that description pretty well.
There are many players in the 2011 college football season who have been mentioned as Heisman Trophy contenders.
Boise State Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore, Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Landry Jones, Alabama Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson, Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck and Oregon Ducks running back LeMichael James have all been considered the top three front-runners to win college football’s most prestigious award.
Other players such as Wisconsin Badgers running back Montee Ball, Houston Cougars quarterback Case Keenum, Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden and Baylor Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III have also risen to prominence and gained some recent consideration.
But the scrappy and diminutive player known as “Honey Badger” due to his ferocious tenacity has been the lynchpin—and wildcard—for the top-ranked LSU Tigers all year.
The 5’8, 175 pound sophomore from New Orleans has also had a knack for making big plays as well as the football during LSU’s undefeated regular season.
Through 12 games, Mathieu has 67 total tackles—50 solo and 17 assists, 1.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Mathieu has also returned two punt returns for touchdowns—highlighted by a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas and a controversial 62-yard punt return for a touchdown against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Mathieu would record five tackles, one interception and 119 punt return yards in LSU’s 42-10 win over the Bulldogs. And for the year, Mathieu has a total of 301 total return yards for the Tigers in 2011.
With such an uncanny ability to change the outcome of a game with a timely interception or a big punt return for a touchdown, Mathieu has the intangibles to become the second defensive player—and the first since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997—to win the Heisman.
While Woodson did not win the Heisman until his junior year in 1997, Mathieu has a chance to edge out a perceived front-runner—in Stanford’s Luck, in the same fashion that Woodson edged out Tennessee’s Peyton Manning.
Woodson—like Mathieu had a knack for making big plays for the Wolverines, such as returning a punt for a touchdown and a key interception in the end-zone against Ohio State. Woodson would also have another red-zone interception in helping Michigan claim a share of the national title in the Rose Bowl.
While only a sophomore, Mathieu and his ball-hawking skills give him a opportunity to become the fourth sophomore—and fourth straight—after Florida’s Tim Tebow, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Alabama’s Mark Ingram to win the award.
Both players are special and dynamic in their own right, while Mathieu is only 5’8 and almost 30 pounds lighter than the 6’1, 202-pound Woodson was at Michigan, both are also very gifted athletically and physical to opposing wide receivers.
Like Woodson back in 1997 , Mathieu is also playing on an undefeated team—Michigan went 12-0—that has a chance for a national tile, and although that is not a requirement to win the Heisman Trophy, in the case of Mathieu it couldn’t hurt him—nor his chances either.
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