Two weeks into the 2010 college football season, it's a safe bet that Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs has absolutely no shot at winning the Heisman Trophy. In fact, after fumbling three times in the Midshipmen's opening loss against Maryland, the campaign behind the People's Choice for Heisman effectively fizzled out before it even started.
What a waste of time, right?
Historical precedent has shown that hype and publicity are as important to winning the Heisman as almost anything a player can actually do on the field. Consequently, Heisman winners typically play the glamour positions for powerhouse schools, such as Alabama, Oklahoma, USC and Florida.
That sounds like a fine way to pick the Golden Globes, where Patch Adams once scored a best picture nomination. However, I'd prefer to see college football's top individual award actually go to the sport's most outstanding player, as dictated by the criteria.
If guys like Locker and Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert supposedly merited Heisman consideration heading into the season, why shouldn't Dobbs, who was possibly the most valuable player in the country in 2009?
Obviously, an option quarterback from a service academy doesn't exactly fit the traditional Heisman mold. And, yet, a funny thing happened on the way to the Downtown Athletic Club (or wherever the trophy presentation is held now). People actually started taking notice of Navy's underpublicized gem of a QB.
Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com: "Ricky Dobbs can't win the Heisman because he plays for a service academy? Not good enough for me. I hope it's not good enough for you. Because this is the year. Dobbs is the player."
SI.com's Stewart Mandel: "Option QBs tend to be discounted in general (Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt barely registered on the meter despite leading an 11-win team last year), and particularly those from Navy. Most Heisman voters are unlikely to even watch Dobbs play much outside of the nationally-televised opener against Maryland and the Notre Dame game. But the mere fact that he's being mentioned causes Dobbs to shake his head in wonder."
Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com's dean of college football writers: "Time to lower the cynicism spectacles. In an age in which national politics is bloodsport and the American public holds its government in whatever is lower than low esteem, Dobbs is a reminder of a different era."
Mr. SEC, Tony Barnhart: "Nobody from the service academies has won the award since Navy's Roger Staubach in 1963. But this kid, a native of Douglasville, is special."
With such a slow start to the season, it's hard to say if Dobbs ever really had a legitimate shot at taking home the hardware. Still, there's no doubt that Dobbs had at least captured the media's attention. If his chances are slim now, at least it's probably more because of the merits of his play than the fact that his team isn't on TV all that often.
More importantly, though, the attention finally being paid to Dobbs' on-field exploits helped shine a 1,000-megawatt spotlight on a guy who should be an ambassador for college athletics and the United States Naval Academy. (If you haven't already read it yet, Steve Yanda's profile of Dobbs for The Washington Post is a must.)
I'm as jaded as it gets when it comes to all the hypocrisy and bogus moralizing about athletes and their place in society. I detest the complaints about the examples set by athletes only slightly more than thanking God at the end of a game. I view almost any story about "Athlete X is such a great guy" with a level of skepticism I usually reserve for e-mail offers from Nigerian princes.
Dobbs, however, is different, and he won't make me look like a chump for saying that.
His Oval Office ambitions are well-documented, but do you know what he wants to do in between his military service and running the most powerful country in the world?
Be a youth minister.
Roll your eyes if you want, but I have no doubt Dobbs is the real deal.
I'm really sorry he won't be winning the Heisman, but hopefully he can take some comfort in that.