FOOTBALL: Heisman Hopeful
Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 11:12
When Andre Williams rushed for 263 yards and five touchdowns against Army, not playing the last couple snaps of the game and finishing one yard short of the team’s single game rushing record, it seemed as though, by some mistake, he had missed his golden opportunity to make Boston College football history.
Alumni Stadium watched as the 6-foot, 227 pound senior from Schnecksville, Pa. took carry after carry, propelled forward by strong strides from what since then has been widely recognized as his “massive thighs.”
That gargantuan effort was enough for a BC win, its third of the season, and Williams was quick to shrug off the missed opportunity for setting the record, simply happy to be an important part of the snapping of a two-game losing streak. Maybe he knew that there were bigger things to come.
But then, Williams rushed for 172 yards at North Carolina, 166 against Virginia Tech, and 295 when the Eagles visited New Mexico State, breaking Montel Harris’ single game rushing record just four weeks after his narrow miss against Army.
There were also blips in his performance. Against USC, Williams managed just 38 yards on 17 attempts, and whispering began that Williams might not be effective against more high-powered defenses. Then came Florida State, though, when he rushed for 149 yards, more than the efforts of 10 full teams when faced with the Seminole defense this year.
Williams cemented his spot in BC record books, though, as the program’s all-time leader in rushing yards in a single season after a 339-yard performance against NC State and 263 yards at Maryland.
On the last weekend of regular season play, a lingering shoulder injury was aggravated early against Syracuse, forcing Williams to sit out most of the game, amassing only 29 yards as the Orange eventually staged a last-minute win. Meanwhile, other Heisman candidates were participating in storied rivalry games with widespread national viewing. The 29 yards brought his season total to 2,102. That number gives him the ninth best rushing season in the history of college football.
Even with a nod as a finalist for the Doak Walker award, which goes out to college football’s top running back, it became apparent that Williams was not finished making history.
On Monday evening, he was announced as one of six Heisman Trophy finalists, the second ever for BC, as he joins ranks with Doug Flutie, a finalist in 1983 and 1984, who won the award on his second trip to the ceremony. On Saturday, Williams will join Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Auburn’s Tre Mason, and Florida State’s Jameis Winston at a ceremony in New York City, where the winner of one of college football’s most prestigious awards will be announced.
“I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around it yet,” Williams said. “I’m still really blown away about it. I’m still sifting through all the congratulations and phone calls. It’s just a really awesome experience.”
Four of the six finalists are quarterbacks, and Williams is the only member of a team that falls outside of the BCS top 25.
Williams, however, brings his own unique strengths to the tough competition. A senior in the Lynch School of Education, Williams is set to graduate a semester early and currently holds a 3.065 GPA, on top of having been a teaching assistant in a Courage to Know seminar.
This is reflected on the field as well, as he remains a stalwart leader and a role model for younger players, especially two promising freshman running backs. Through everything, he remains humble, attributing much of his success to his loyal offensive line.
“If I actually win the Heisman Trophy, I’ll chop it up into equal pieces and they can all take a piece of it home,” he said.
Throughout Williams’ Heisman campaign, head coach Steve Addazio has been adamant about how much he thinks his player deserves the award.
“Heisman mission statement,” he said. “‘Outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.’ I would say Andre Williams absolutely fits that.”
On Saturday night, we’ll see if the voters agree.