With the release of NCAA Football '13 earlier this week, EA Sports has asked each blog to talk about Heisman Trophy winners. The game has a new feature where you can put past Heisman winners on any team. Every year, the game has some new feature that is the key marketing tool. This year, it's the Heisman challenge.
This is a two-post topic, the first being which Heisman winner you'd want on your team, and the other being about snubs, possibly related to your school (get ready for Lorenzo White). MSU has never had a Heisman winner, so we have every single one to choose from. You can make a case for many winners in relation to MSU's status, but I'm going to go with a recent guy who nearly was a Spartan: former Alabama running back Mark Ingram.
Ingram's dad grew up in Flint and was a great MSU receiver in the 1980s. In fact, both parents, grandparents and an aunt all went through East Lansing. Mark Ingram Jr. also grew up in Flint as an MSU fan and was a four-star recruit out of high school. But former MSU assistant and head coach Nick Saban wasn't done tormenting the Spartans after leaving in 1999. Saban had coached the elder Ingram, so there were strong ties there. The younger Ingram's recruitment came down to to local Spartans and the (at the time) former powerhouse Crimson Tide.
From the day he committed to Alabama, per Scout:
"Coach Saban is one of the best football recruiters in the country. He can get players year in and year out. You can just look at this year's recruiting class. It's going to be No.1 in the country. People aren't too fond of him at Michigan State, but I think he is a great guy. He is going to get the best out of you."
Ingram made the right decision, heading to Tuscaloosa and winning the Heisman and the national championship in 2009. That season, Ingram rushed 271 times for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns and became the first Alabama player win the Heisman.
Now, what about the Spartans? In 2008, Javon Ringer finished 10th in the Heisman race after finishing second in the Big Ten with 1,637 rushing yards. But MSU finished ninth in the Big Ten as a team because Ringer had an unbelievable 390 rushing attempts. If MSU has Ingram to take some of the load as a freshman, maybe MSU wins the Big Ten championship that year. They were one win away, after all.
But how about that 2009 season? With Ringer gone, MSU was left with a running-back-by-committee situation. Freshman Edwin Baker was a four-star recruit that picked MSU over several elite offers, just a few weeks after Ingram picked Alabama. But he dealt with injuries for much of the season. Four-star recruit Larry Caper would end up with the most carries, also a true freshman. MSU finished sixth in the conference in rushing, while Caper had just 468 yards, well outside the top 10 in the Big Ten.
MSU relied on the No. 2 passing game in the conference en route to a 6-6 season with a bevy of close losses (Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Iowa, Minnesota). Following the season, the Rather Hall brawl became a watershed moment for the program, as Mark Dantonio rid his team of the bad eggs.
A Big Ten championship season followed, and in the final game, both parties met head-to-head in the Capital One Bowl. What resulted was one final punch in the gut from Saban and Ingram in his final game. On Alabama's first drive, the Tide got to the goal line. On third down, Ingram bounced the run outside and was met by safety Marcus Hyde. What happened was representative of the two programs and was one final confirmation that Ingram made the right choice.
Hyde was demolished, Ingram fell into the endzone, got up and flashed his gloves with the Alabama logo to the MSU band and fans. A few months later, Ingram was drafted by the New Orleans Saints.
There's no doubt Ingram made the right decision back in February 2008. But from the other side of things, Ingram comes to mind as a Heisman winner that would have been great for the Spartans. Things worked out with a Big Ten championship and division championship in the following years, but I wonder where the program could be.
Maybe I went with Ingram because I'm a young guy. I can't speak to many players and seasons before my time. I went with Ingram because of how close he was to being a Spartan, and I wanted it to have an effect on good MSU teams. Adding a Heisman winner to an MSU team that wasn't any good probably wouldn't make much of a difference.
Next week, we'll take at look at a Heisman snub.
What Heisman winner would you have liked to have seen on MSU and why?
This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.
EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13 TV: "Son" (via EASPORTS)