Wiedmer: Bryce Young breaks Bama QB jinx when it comes to the Heisman

AP photo by John Minchillo / Alabama quarterback Bryce Young speaks with reporters before attending the Heisman Trophy ceremony Saturday night in New York City. Young became the second straight Crimson Tide player to win college football's highest individual honor, but he is the storied program's first quarterback to do so.

It seemed like nothing more than a garbage-time touchdown pass at the time, deep into Alabama's 63-3 rout of Kentucky in November 2020.

Rolling to his right, Crimson Tide reserve quarterback Bryce Young threw back across his body to DeVonta Smith, who caught the ball between two defenders and scored.

A television announcer that day said of Young's laser: "He threw into a window that wasn't even there."

On Saturday night, in the moments just after Young won the 2021 Heisman Trophy in a similar rout over fellow finalists Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan (second), Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh (third) and CJ Stroud of Ohio State, Smith appeared on a video screen and said: "Little did they know then that pass was from one Heisman Trophy winner to another."

Indeed, just as Smith gained unstoppable momentum late in the 2020 season, Young blew away the competition down the stretch this time around after inspiring comeback wins at Auburn and against top-ranked Georgia in last weekend's Southeasern Conference championship game.

photo AP photo by John Bazemore / Alabama quarterback Bryce Young looks for a receiver during the SEC title game against Georgia on Dec. 4 in Atlanta.

Remarkably, though the Tide have now had four Heisman winners total at three positions under incomparable coach Nick Saban - Young, Smith and running backs Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry - Young is Alabama's first winner at quarterback.

That's right: Former Bama quarterbacks Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Kenny "Snake" Stabler may all be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but none of them won the Heisman as collegians. Recent Tide signal callers Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa were also considered serious candidates at certain times but failed to cart home the 45-pound bronze trophy.

Then again, few players at Bama or anywhere else have saved their best for last more so than Young, who not only orchestrated a remarkable Tide comeback in a four-overtime win at Auburn - forcing overtime with a 28-yard touchdown pass with but 24 seconds on the clock - but then torched the seemingly impenetrable Georgia defense for a whopping 421 passing yards (a record for the SEC title game) and three touchdowns, plus one rushing score, to shock the Bulldogs in Atlanta.

Such efforts when a loss in either game would have ended reigning national champ Alabama's chances to return to the College Football Playoff couldn't help but impress undecided voters, of whom there were many this year heading into the final weeks of the season.

Said ESPN commentator Holly Rowe of the fourth-and-7 completion Young had at Auburn with 38 seconds to go that set up the TD toss that forced OT: "Fourth-and-7, and he's smiling."

The four finalists were the kind of clean-cut, no-drama, humble young adults to make any college football fan smile.

Pickett - "Mr. Fake Slide," as he was called after his controversial touchdown run against Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game when he faked a slide, then scored - came back for a final season on the advice of none other than Peyton Manning, then led the nation in touchdown passes against the blitz with 20, including one or two against Tennessee, no doubt. (Side question: Not that it's wrong, but who comes up with these stats, and are there folks out there who bet on such things?)

Ohio State's Stroud probably would have won the award had the Buckeyes not lost the most-watched game of the year to that point against Michigan. Not really his fault, of course. In two losses to Oregon and Michigan, he threw for more than 800 total yards, five touchdowns and just one interception. Only a freshman, he'll surely have a chance to win next year.

As for Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson, his father Chris had been a Wolverines defensive star 30 years ago before becoming the doctor who delivered him. With the nation's college football eyes on Michigan's Big House, the defensive lineman had three sacks against the Buckeyes' Stroud and an astounding 14 quarterback pressures. Some even believe Hutchinson will be the No. 1 overall pick in next spring's NFL draft.

photo AP photo by John Minchillo / This year's Heisman Trophy finalists pose for a photo before Saturday night's presentation ceremony in New York City. From left are Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.

Yet as wonderful as Pickett, Stroud and Hutchinson were this season, Young was arguably better, totaling 43 touchdown passes to but four interceptions, not bad for a California Kid who's often been dismissed as too small at an even 6 feet (if that) and no more than 190 pounds.

But those who doubted him failed to understand Young's inner drive or the advice from his father Craig.

Said Young of his decision to go to Bama: "It's the hardest there, the highest standards."

Said Craig throughout his son's high school career in gently urging him not to settle: "If you're the best player in the gym, find a new gym."

Required to remain in college for one more year, Young will now go into the 2022 season as the sport's best quarterback. He'll have to wait until the 2023 NFL draft to find a new gym.

But between now and then, he seems destined to make a lot of people at Bama happy, including former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and current Tide athletic trainer Jeff Allen, whom Young thanked in his acceptance speech.

It's all enough to return to the words of Young's Mater Dei High School quarterbacks coach Taylor Kelly, who told Yahoo Sports last week: "You wouldn't look twice at him on the street. But when he puts the pads on and steps in between the white lines, the kid is special."

As any Auburn or Georgia fan can painfully attest these days.

photo Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.