By Lance Tominaga | November 29, 2018
Shortly after winning the Heisman Trophy in 2014, Marcus Mariota urged young players in Hawaii to strive to achieve their dreams. “I hope this is just the beginning,” he said. “I hope we get another one.”
Four years later, it’s time for “another one.” And that someone just happens to be Mariota’s successor at Saint Louis.
The super sophomore Tua Tagovailoa has excelled on the college game’s biggest stage, leading the Crimson Tide to an undefeated regular season and producing unbelievable passing numbers along the way. So far, Tagovailoa has passed for 3,189 yards, 36 TDs and just two interceptions. He’s also scored five rushing TDs. Any doubt that he is the Heisman front runner was erased this past Saturday when he passed for five TDs and ran for another score in Alabama’s decisive 52-21 win over arch-rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow has raved about the former Saint Louis signal caller. “He does stuff other people just hope they can do,” Tebow recently told reporters. “If you look at certain traits over the course of the last 20 years, there are a few guys that do better in some areas – some people run better, some people are stronger – but when you combine all of it, he’s special. And I think he’ll be one of the best to ever do it.”
Heisman Trophy? How about the HI-sman Trophy? Since 2006, five players with Hawaii ties have contended for the coveted award, which is annually presented to the most outstanding player in college football.
In 2002, after leading Washington State to a berth in the Rose Bowl, former Saint Louis QB Jason Gesser placed seventh in the Heisman voting. The senior signal-caller passed for 3,408 yards and 28 TDs for the Cougars.
In 2006, University of Hawaii QB Colt Brennan enjoyed a record-setting season, passing for 5,549 yards and 58 TDs. For his efforts, the junior earned six first-place votes in the Heisman race and finished sixth in the overall voting. (Ohio State’s Troy Smith won the award that year.) The next season, Brennan led the Rainbow Warriors to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. He became the first Hawaii player to be named a finalist for the Heisman. Brennan traveled to New York City for the award presentation, where he finished third behind Florida QB Tim Tebow and Arkansas RB Darren McFadden. Brennan received 54 first-place votes, 114 second-place votes and 242 third-place votes.
Manti Te‘o had a magnificent career at Notre Dame. In 2012, his senior season, the linebacker out of Punahou School led the Fighting Irish to a spotless regular-season record and a berth in the national championship game against Alabama. That season, the future NFL star tallied 113 tackles (55 solo), 7 interceptions and 1.5 sacks. Te‘0 finished second in the Heisman voting that year, becoming the highest placing defensive player since Michigan’s Charles Woodson won the award in 1998. With 321 first-place votes and 1,706 total points, Te‘o finished a distant second to Texas A&M freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. Te ‘o was the first linebacker to finish in the top five in Heisman voting since Brian Bosworth did it in 1986.
Midway through the 2014 season, it was already clear that Oregon QB Marcus Mariota was the frontrunner for college game’s most prestigious award. The Saint Louis School alum passed for 4,454 yards, 42 TDs and only 4 interceptions that season and led the Ducks to the national title game against Ohio State. (The game was the culmination of the first-ever four-team College Football Playoffs.) On Dec. 13, Mariota made history by becoming the first player from Hawaii to win the Heisman. With 788 first-place votes and 2,534 total points, he easily outpaced runner-ups Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) and Amari Cooper (Alabama). Moreover, Mariota was named on 95.2 percent of all ballots – highest of all time in Heisman voting history.
Former Mililani QB McKenzie Milton grabbed the national spotlight in 2017 while leading Central Florida to a perfect 13-0 record, including a 34-27 win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Just a sophomore, Milton passed for 4,037 yards and 37 TDs. He received four first-place nods in the Heisman voting, finishing eighth overall. (The Heisman winner that year was Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.) Expect Milton to also receive votes in the 2018 race. He passed for 2,664 yards and 25 TDs before suffering a devastating right leg injury against rival South Florida.