Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Center of Attention | by Pat

As Heismanpundit notes, the 2006 Heisman campaign has officially kicked off with a round of national media articles on ND quarterback Brady Quinn. ESPN's Pat Forde and CBS Sportsline's Dennis Dodd sat down, along with other national media folk, for an interview with Brady Quinn that can really only be seen as the start of Brady's Heisman campaign.

The articles (here and here) are both good reads and cover such fun topics as avoiding autograph hounds, Quinn's dedication to staying in shape, and his transformation from average college quarterback to arguably the top player in the country. There are plenty of great quotes, including Brady's reasons he came back for his senior year.

"I thought about the things that really mattered to me most," Quinn said. "One, working with Coach another year is going to help me excel and improve. I'm not going to get that in the NFL -- I'm not going to get that coaching. Why would I go somewhere else when I have that right here?"

The second thing, I didn't prepare myself like I have this summer, with agents and physically."

And the last thing, that probably mattered to me most, I came here with dreams of winning a national championship. Based upon the talent we have coming into this year, why would I ever leave that? Why would I ever go somewhere else, when this is my last chance?"
Both writers clearly came away impressed with Quinn, and confident that he will be able to handle the media crush likely to follow the Heisman favorite throughout the season. The interesting thing to me won't be so much how Quinn handles the Heisman race, but how Notre Dame does.

As Dodd notes, it has been quite a Heisman dry spell at ND, relatively speaking. It's been 18 years since Tim Brown won the award, which is the second-longest break between Heisman trophies in ND history (the 23-year gap between Huarte ('64) and Brown ('87) was longer). And the last Heisman hopeful -- Rocket, who finished a close second to BYU's Ty Detmer -- well, that was 16 years ago.

In the last sixteen years since Rocket's run, schools have become much more aggressive with promoting their candidate for Heisman, especially when it comes utilizing the internet. Obviously Notre Dame is not lacking for media exposure, so ND will not have to resort to some of the giveaways and gimmicks seen at other schools. But even top programs like Southern Cal resorted to things like MattReggieTV.com, a subscription based video blog of the two high profile Trojans, to hype (and profit from) their candidacies. With this in mind, I'm curious as to what ND has planned for the "Quinn for Heisman" campaign.

Charlie no doubt will make sure that the race doesn't overshadow the rest of the season and, as his presence in the back of the room as Quinn was being interviewed attests, I'd expect him to keep a tight grip on whatever ND does regarding the campaign. After all, as long as ND keeps winning, Quinn will likely stay the front runner. An over-the-top promotional blitz might turn off voters who already will be bombarded with plenty of "Mighty Quinn" stories in the media.

Last year the official UND.com website put up a small page offering short highlights of Quinn, along with some of the other players up for post-season awards, so I would half-expect a little more developed version of the same for this year. With 11 of the 12 regular season games this season being broadcast on the major three networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), it will be easy for voters to catch Quinn and the Irish on TV. Still, a site with video highlights and perhaps a running tally of his rewriting of the ND record books can't hurt. I'm reasonably certain that ND will keep a low profile and let Quinn win the award on his own merits, but given his front-runner status and the extreme popularity of guys like Samardzija and Zbikowski, I'm not so naive as to think that the school won't try something. It's just a question of how far the University will go to promote its first true pre-season Heisman contender in over a decade.