Bryce Young 1st Alabama Quarterback to Win Heisman Trophy

A historic achievement for the first-year starter.

The Alabama Crimson Tide has had some great quarterbacks over the years. Harry Gilmer is in the College Hall of Fame and starred in the NFL in the 1940s and 1950s. Bart Starr is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and led the Green Bay Packers to wins in the first two Super Bowls. Joe Namath is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and led the New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III. Ken Stabler, who followed Namath at Alabama, led the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI and finally made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame posthumously. The last three alumni at the position—Jaylen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, and Mac Jones—are all starting in the NFL. And that’s to say nothing of those who led Alabama to national championships or had successful but mediocre NFL careers.

But sophomore Bryce Young is the first to win the most coveted individual honor in college football, the Heisman Trophy.

ESPN (“Quarterback Bryce Young awarded Heisman Trophy, giving Alabama football back-to-back winners“):

Bryce Young saved his best performances for last, and in doing so ran away with this year’s Heisman Trophy, winning the award in a ceremony in New York City on Saturday night.

A sophomore and former five-star prospect from California, Young entered the season with sky-high expectations as the presumptive choice to replace former Crimson Tide quarterback and NFL first-round pick Mac Jones.


In the end, Young’s Heisman credentials included a sterling 43 passing touchdowns and only four interceptions. A gifted, albeit reticent runner, he also rushed for three scores.

But it was down the stretch, in a dramatic come-from-behind win at Auburn to close out the regular season and then by dominating No. 3 Georgia and its top ranked defense in the SEC championship game a week later, that Young sealed his Heisman victory.

“Whenever you can win an award like this, it doesn’t go as an individual award but it’s a team award because I couldn’t do it without any of those guys,” Young said in his speech, referring to his Crimson Tide teammates. “I’d like to thank Coach Saban. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for your guidance and putting me in situations to be successful and for us as a team to be successful.”

At Auburn, Young and Alabama trailed 10-3 with 1:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and star receiver Jameson Williams sidelined after he was ejected for targeting in the first half. Backed up against his own 3-yard line, Young led the team on a 12-play, 97-yard drive, which he capped off by throwing a score-tying, 28-yard touchdown pass to freshman wideout Ja’Corey Brooks, who had only two catches entering the game.

Four overtimes later, Young threw the game-winning two-point conversion to John Metchie III, keeping the Tide’s hope of reaching the College Football Playoff alive. On Dec. 31, No. 1 Alabama will play No. 4 Cincinnati in the CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Young also won the Maxwell Award, given to the best player in college football, and the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback.

“It’s really about belief in yourself and it’s about belief in your preparation and your abilities and not allowing people to write your story and to dictate your life to you and to taking control of your destiny and just being the best person you can be,” Craig Young, Bryce’s father, said during ESPN’s telecast. “And I think he personifies that.”

Here’s a highlight reel:

And his acceptance speech:

While the race was close most of the year, Young was always a favorite. He probably all but sealed it with the comeback against Auburn and definitely did by putting up far-and-away the best performance of the year against a Georgia defense previously considered one of the best in history. Ultimately, the vote wasn’t even close:

Young also won the Maxwell Award (player of the year) and Davey O’Brien Award (best QB) earlier in the week and is still in the running for the Manning Award (best quarterback, postseason included).

Oddly, Michigan defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson, the second-best finisher and projected #1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, did not win either of the Chuck Bednarik or Bronco Nagurski Award, the two separately-chosen trophies for best defensive player, which went instead to Georgia’s Jordan Davis and Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr.—neither of whom made the top four in the Heisman balloting. (Even more strangely, Anderson, a linebacker, wasn’t even nominated for the Butkus Award given to the best linebacker.)

Young is the fourth Alabama player to win the Heisman, including his teammate DeVonta Smith (who won it last year and to whom Young threw his first college touchdown pass), Derrick Henry (2015), and Mark Ingram (2009)—all in the Nick Saban era. The other three all went on to win the national championship the year they won the award. Young has to defeat Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl and the winner of the Georgia-Michigan matchup in the Orange Bowl to match that feat.

With at least one more season of college ball ahead of him before he’s eligible for the NFL draft, Young has the opportunity to follow Ohio State’s Archie Griffin (1974 and 1975) as the only two-time winner of the award.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.