STANFORD — The approach on The Farm for this weekend’s Heisman Trophy ceremony appears to be: “It’s an honor just to be nominated.”
Stanford will send a candidate to New York City for the fifth time since 2009, when running back Toby Gerhart finished as the runner-up to Alabama’s Mark Ingram by the closest margin in history of the award, a mere 28 votes.
Quarterback Andrew Luck lost out the next two years to Auburn’s Cam Newton and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, respectively.
It was running back Christian McCaffrey’s turn to finish second to Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015.
Now it’s Stanford junior Bryce Love headed for the spotlight in the Big Apple, where it’s quite likely the 5-foot-10, 195-pound running back will find himself in the audience applauding as Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, the presumptive favorite, steps up to the podium on Saturday night.
Apparently, that’s not a doomsday scenario for the Cardinal.
“Whether or not everybody says you’re the best or not, being in that discussion I think is truly special, and I know Bryce and his family feel that way,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “This is a blessing, this is an honor and there is not going to be any negativity towards this thing, even from my standpoint. This is just a great opportunity to recognize a young man that’s had an outstanding year.”
Last year’s winner, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, rounds out the three finalists.
“I’m honored,” Love said. “I’m happy and obviously I’m excited for it. And I’m thankful for the teammates that helped me get there, the coaches and everybody involved.”
He added: “It really makes me think about all the work and all the long days and all the teammates and everybody who’s done things for me. It really touches me and puts things into perspective.”
To get to this point, Stanford employed the hashtag #HeismanLove on Twitter and created the website BryceLove20.com to promote his résumé, both on and off the field.
On the first play of the season back on Aug. 26 in Sydney, Australia, he busted out a 62-yard run. That was merely a sign of things to come.
Love set an FBS record this year with 12 carries of 50-plus yards — 10 of those for touchdowns. He’s second in the nation at 164.4 rushing yards per game and averages 8.3 yards per carry.
He doesn’t even need another 50-yard burst at the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28 to eclipse the single-season school record for rushing yards set by McCaffrey in 2015. Not to mention, Love already stole his single-game record with the first-ever 300-yard rushing game by a Cardinal at the end of September.
Is that enough to push him over the top after his predecessors garnered runner-up status? Does it matter?
“Excited about this opportunity for him, and it’s not just about winning the award,” Shaw said. “It’s about the recognition across the nation of what he accomplished this year. … Nearly 2,000 yards where half the season he’s running on a high ankle sprain. A thousand yards in five games, unbelievable. Over 8 yards a carry, unbelievable. Just all of those explosive plays, a 300-yard rushing game, unheard of.”
Shaw added: “Lastly, and least importantly, just excited about program-wise to say that in the last eight years, five times we’ve had a player that’s in the discussion for the best player in America.”