So, you may have read/heard that I’m on record saying Ameer Abdullah will not win the Heisman Trophy.
I believe and will stand by what I wrote, but if I’ve learned anything being a college football fan it is this: you never say never until the game is over. Ameer could win (or, more realistically, be invited as a finalist), but it’s not as simple as just playing up to the very high standard he has shown throughout his Nebraska career.
And no, the answer is not blowing up Twitter with the #FearAmeer hashtag, sending out another batch of AA batteries to voters*, or another marching band formation. The Heisman Trophy cannot be won by social media savvy alone. Ameer Abdullah and the Athletic Department’s media folks will need to follow this six point plan:
*But first, let’s take a quick moment to recognize the simple brilliance of the battery giveaway. Ameer Abdullah. AA. He provides the power to the Nebraska offense (if not the entire program), and lasts a long, long time (a certain 1980’s advertising icon might say he “keeps going and going”). He wears number 8, so send them eight of them, all with clean, beautiful branding. I mean, it’s so brilliantly perfect that I fear by describing it I’ll cheapen the genius of the idea.
If there was a Heisman Trophy for promotional items sent to trophy voters, these batteries would be a unanimous winner.
1. Put up big numbers.
Nebraska probably won’t have the top ten ranking that most Heisman finalists enjoy, so Abdullah will need to get attention in other ways. This starts with his individual stats, and breaks down into three key categories:
- Yards, yards, yards. Ideally, Abdullah gets close to 200 yards rushing every game, as he’s already done four times in 2014. But when he struggles to break 100 in rushing (Michigan State, McNeese State) he needs to get over 100 all-purpose yards. With the exception of the Purdue game (where he left with an injury), Abdullah has been over 100 all-purpose in every game, including an obscene 341 against Rutgers.
- Touchdowns. Heading into the Wisconsin game, Abdullah has already scored a total of 19 touchdowns. Keep giving him the rock near the goal line.
- School records. Abdullah can still surpass Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier’s school record for rushing yards. He also has a shot at the Big Ten record for all-purpose yards. While the Heisman is typically not a “lifetime achievement” award (which is partially why Peyton Manning never won), breaking those two records would definitely open some eyes.
2. Just win, baby.
As I noted in the other piece, Heisman winners simply do not play on teams that lose. For Abdullah to have any chance at winning, Nebraska needs to be 12-1 when the award is announced. That would mean wins against Miami, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and (likely) Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. Assuming Abdullah is putting up big numbers, it might be enough to get him to New York. His candidacy cannot withstand another loss, even if he has a big statistical day.
3. Did you see that?
In addition to putting up big numbers, Ameer can help his cause by having one or two “oh wow” moments in each game. I’m talking about things like his 58 yard reception for a touchdown that won the McNeese State game, his long touchdown runs against Fresno State, or his big kickoff return against Rutgers.
Thirty carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns is very nice, but regularly showing up in highlight packages bouncing off tacklers, hurdling defenders, or running free will help show voters how special he is. Memo to Husker coaches: design a trick play for him (ala Eric Crouch’s famous 41 Black Flash Reverse) or turn him loose to block a punt.
As an added bonus, these highlights are very easy to send via YouTube, GIF, Tweet, Facebook, or email with the #FearAmeer hashtag.
4. Be the best of the B1G.
Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is an elite back. He’s so talented that I would not be at all surprised to find a Gordon-centric version of this “How to Win the Heisman” post on some Badger website. There are a multitude of reasons why two running backs from the Big Ten will not both be Heisman finalists, so Abdullah must clearly be considered the best back in the Big Ten. Dominating the head-to-head battle would be a big step.
5. Ndominate like Ndamukong in the conference championship.
For Ameer’s Heisman run to have a chance, Nebraska must get to the Big Ten Championship game. Not only does this help Nebraska’s W/L total and national ranking, but it gives Abdullah a nationally televised showcase.
In 2009, Ndamukong Suh took advantage of the big stage in the Big XII Championship. He toyed with the Texas offensive line and sacked Longhorn QB (and Heisman contender) Colt McCoy all night long. One could very easily make the argument that Suh’s play in that one game is what punched his ticket for New York.
If Abdullah gets a similar opportunity, he needs to take full advantage of it.
6. Share his story.
Ameer Abdullah has wonderful back-story. Being snubbed by his home state SEC schools. Deciding to come back for his senior season primarily so he would not be the only one of his nine siblings without a college degree. Giving the keynote address at Big Ten Media Days. Being a finalist for several national off-the-field awards.
NU needs to push to have Ameer on national shows and let them highlight how impressive he is. With the antics and legal issues of recent winners Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, some voters may consider character more than ever to help restore the luster of the Heisman. That helps Ameer, as he is overflowing with class, character, and integrity.
Bottom line: The deck is stacked against Ameer Abdullah winning the Heisman Trophy, but he has put together a legendary Husker career out of proving people wrong and exceeding expectations. It won’t be easy, but if anybody can do it, it’s Ameer.