By Kyle Galdeira (@kylegaldeira) | December 9, 2018
Kyle Murray knows baseball.
He knows football.
And, he knows now what it feels like to win the Heisman Trophy.
The Oklahoma quarterback was selected as the 84th winner of the Heisman Memorial Trophy after a week’s worth of speculation and drama that culminated Saturday night at the PlayStation Theater in Times Square, New York. He earned 2,167 total points, while Saint Louis product and Alabama gunslinger Tua Tagovailoa (1,871 points, 299 first-place votes) and Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins (783 points, 46 first-place votes) were also recognized as finalists.
Murray became the seventh Sooner to win the Heisman and was named on 92.03 percent of all ballots – the third-highest all-time. The shifty athlete, who is on track to play professional baseball after being drafted by the Oakland Athletics, finished first in five of the six Heisman voting regions; it was the first time that a Heisman winner did not sweep all regions as Tagovailoa ended up first in the South Region.
“You’ve got to dream big. Did I go into this season thinking I’d be here?” Murray asked, rhetorically. “Of course.”
To paint a clearer picture of how close Tagovailoa came to winning, his 229 first-place votes received was the third-highest mark amongst runners-up in the history of the award. And, his 1,871 points is the highest tally ever received by a runner-up; he just so happened to win the fan’s vote, as well. Also of note for Hawai‘i football fans, Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton, a Mililani product, earned 39 points to finish sixth in the voting.
As we received the final numbers in the media room when Murray was named the winner, a breakdown of the timing of votes received made it clear that the majority of ballot casters waited until Murray shined in the Big 12 Championship game against Texas and Tagovailoa struggled in the SEC Championship matchup with Georgia before submitting their opinion.
Prior to the Big 12 Championship, only 13 percent of the eligible voters had decided, and at that point, Tagovailoa held a 294-215 lead over Murray. And, as more votes trickled in during the championship games, Tagovailoa still held a 336-257 lead.
However, the remaining 85 percent of votes flooded in after the SEC title was picked up by Alabama as Tagovailoa finished the game sidelined with an ankle injury. That turn of events proved enough for those remaining voters as Murray received 1,910 votes compared to 1,535 for Tagovailoa in the final wave of ballots received.
“When you’re little, you dream of winning a state championship, and at the collegiate level, especially at a skill position, you dream about winning the Heisman,” Tagovailoa said.
After Murray was announced as the winner, it was apparent via reaction on social media that many fans, especially those in Hawai‘i and throughout the South, were upset with the results. Personally, I picked Tagovailoa to come out on top, but it was clear that many voters (I’m not one, by the way) thought that Murray did more down the stretch to deserve the honor.
The good news for Tua and the Crimson Tide is that Alabama is still favored to defeat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on December 29, and is on track to claim a second consecutive national championship. Tagovailoa, who heaped praise upon Alabama and the training staff for helping him rehab via a rigorous regimen throughout the week, which included his receiving electric stimulation during media interviews, vowed that he will be ready for the matchup.
“I’ll be back to play in the Orange Bowl,” Tagovailoa said. “I should be good by the time the game comes around.”
And, who knows, if Tagovailoa puts up another strong season as a junior in 2019, he could be in line for another Heisman invite – and, possibly, a third straight national title.
While finishing as Heisman runner-up may still sting for both Tagovailoa and his fans, have patience. Tua Man is just getting started.