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Griffin leads hopefuls

Heisman finalists get word tonight

By Ralph D. Russo
Associated Press / December 10, 2011
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NEW YORK - Robert Griffin III was working on about 4 1/2 hours of sleep after catching an early flight from Florida to New York yesterday.

Not that he was complaining. Griffin will trade sleep deprivation for a chance to bring No. 15 Baylor its first Heisman Trophy any day.

“This is what it is if you’re going to play well and your team is doing great things,’’ he said.

The Bears’ thrilling dual-threat quarterback was one of four Heisman finalists to arrive in New York yesterday, along with LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and running backs Trent Richardson of Alabama and Montee Ball from Wisconsin.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was in Baltimore receiving the Johnny Unitas Award and is scheduled to arrive in Manhattan this morning.

Griffin and the other finalists came straight from the college football award shows in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday night, where the redshirt junior picked up the Davey O’Brien award as the nation’s best quarterback.

Luck entered the season as the Heisman front-runner after turning down the NFL draft to return to Stanford for one more season. He was excellent, passing for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns for the Cardinal (11-1).

But on the way to what seemed like an enviable Heisman victory, Griffin had a memorable closing month, highlighted by victories against Oklahoma and Texas.

“After the Oklahoma game, all the players on the team realized that if we won out and we did it in style . . . we’d be here,’’ he said. “I say we’d be here because that’s who I’m here for. I am here for those guys.’’

Lifting Baylor from the doldrums - along with passing for 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns - is a big part of why Griffin is expected to break a Heisman trend when the award is announced tonight.

Seven of the last eight winners, including Reggie Bush who later vacated the title, played in the BCS national championship game, as Mathieu and Richardson will.

The Southeastern Conference rivals meet again Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

The recent exception to the BCS title game-Heisman connection was Tim Tebow, who won it in 2007 playing for a Florida team that finished the regular season 9-3.

Mathieu is trying to become the first defensive back to win the Heisman since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997. The sophomore nicknamed Honey Badger for his tenacity, size (5 feet 9 inches, 180 pounds), and dyed blond hair, has four return touchdowns this season.

Ball figures he’s a long shot to win, even though he is one touchdown away from breaking Barry Sanders’s single-season mark of 39 set in 11 games back in 1988.

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