Bryce Young wins the Heisman

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

It was another first for Alabama football. 

Bryce Young is the first quarterback in program history to win the Heisman Trophy and the fourth player to win under head coach Nick Saban. 

He received 684 first place votes.

The honor was announced Saturday night at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room in New York City. 

This year’s other finalists were Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett. 

“I’ve always been someone who’s been labeled as not the prototype,” Young said after accepting the trophy. “Being an African American quarterback and being ‘undersized’ and not being that prototype, I’ve been ruled out … so it’s been about not really proving them wrong, but proving to myself what I can accomplish.” 

His dad, Craig Young, taught him the value of positive self talk. 

“Well, it’s easy when you’re really good, so that helps a lot,” he said. “But also what I touched on before: it’s really belief in yourself, belief in your preparation and your abilities, and not allowing people to write your story and take control of your destiny.” 

Last year’s Heisman winner and former Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith recorded a video that was played after the announcement. 

“From the day you stepped foot on campus, we knew you were different,” Smith said. “Sure, people had their doubts: too small, too skinny. They said the same things about me. Well here you are. You’re calm. When the world panics, you just smile. When your back’s against the wall, you find your way out.” 

“Thanks to the people around me and the grace of God, I’ve been able to make it here, and I’m truly grateful for that,” Young said. 

His mom, Julie Young, said the same. 

“It’s amazing. It’s phenomenal. It’s all God,” she said.

The journey to New York included some twists and turns but ended with Young leaving the Big Apple with the hardware. 

After former quarterback Mac Jones traded in the crimson and white for Patriots blue, Young earned the starting role. Jones left his mark on Young, who said Jones’ work ethic last season left a great impression on him.

“For me, being a freshman, Mac being there and being such an experienced, veteran leader, having the amazing season like he did — for that being my intro to college football, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the sport,” Young said. 

Jones set quite the example — setting the NCAA record for completion percentage and winning the 2020 National Championship — for Young last season. 

This season, however, Young blazed his own path. 

The sophomore from Pasadena, California, wowed college football fans and analysts in his first start for the Crimson Tide. Against the Miami Hurricanes, Young threw four touchdowns, becoming the first Alabama quarterback to do that in his debut. Young had 344 passing yards in the season opener. 

Soon after that performance, Young garnered some buzz as well as high praise from Saban. 

“I think Bryce did really, really well,” Saban said after the Miami game. “He’s smart. Most people just look at the stats and say he was whatever he was for whatever he was for this many yards. But he redirects the protection. He plays like a veteran out there.”

Young helped Alabama jump out to a 5-0 lead. During that stretch, he was crucial to wins over Florida and Ole Miss. In an early showdown between Young and early Heisman favorite Matt Corral, Young shined. He completed 76.9% of his passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. 

Now, Young had two SEC wins under his belt. With momentum and Heisman buzz on their side, the Crimson Tide traveled to College Station, Texas, for a showdown with the Texas A&M Aggies. 

This is where his Heisman hopes dipped. 

Despite throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns, Alabama lost a heartbreaker to the Aggies. The Alabama offense had a chance to put away the game late, but Young didn’t complete a pass on Alabama’s final offensive drive of the game. 

While he remained the favorite after the Oct. 9 loss, his odds dipped. 

“Young’s odds dipped slightly after Saturday’s loss (he was +120 last week),” The Athletic said.  “Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral held at +210 and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is +1000.” 

He stayed calm and kept marching forward. 

The path to New York and the College Football Playoffs were the same: win every remaining game on the schedule. 

The run started in Starkville, Mississippi, with a 49-9 win over Mississippi State. Then, it was Tennessee, LSU, New Mexico State and finally, Arkansas. In each game, Young proved to believers and doubters why he was the Heisman candidate. 

Young’s Heisman moment, however, came Thanksgiving weekend in Auburn, Alabama. 

Every year, the Iron Bowl is the most anticipated matchup of the season. Fans and players alike know how much pride is at stake. 

Many expected Alabama to win this year’s edition with ease. Auburn had lost three straight games and no longer looked like a formidable opponent. Alabama had started yet another winning streak and were more than ready to overcome the weirdness in Jordan-Hare Stadium. 

Auburn came out juiced up and prepared. The pro-Auburn crowd watched the Auburn defensive line sack Young five times in the first 30 minutes of play. Alabama was held scoreless at the end of the first half. 

Auburn looked like the team fans had been seeing three weeks prior to the Iron Bowl. Young and the Alabama offense couldn’t establish a rhythm.

Soon enough, the time came for Young to lead his team to victory. Without Jameson Williams and Brian Robinson and with just 95 seconds to go 98 yards and score, this was the moment fans had been waiting for. 

“This is gonna be our chance, and you’ve gotta make the most of it,” Saban said. “It’s what you work for all year. How many two-minutes have we had all year long?” 

Down 10-3 and with his back against the wall, Young did what he does best. He remained calm in the face of adversity and put the football in the hands of his playmakers. 

Alabama converted a third down and a fourth down to move the ball to the Auburn 28-yard line.

On yet another third-and-10 situation, Young found wide receiver JaCorey Brooks for the score. Without two of his best playmakers, Young led the offense down the field in another hostile situation. 

Alabama defeated Auburn in four overtimes, with Young completing a two-point conversion pass to wide receiver John Metchie III to seal the deal. 

The next week, Young helped his team take down the undefeated Georgia Bulldogs 41-24. He completed 59.1% of his passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns. He did this against the top-ranked defense in the country — a  defense that only gave 6.9 points a game during the regular season. 

Young finished the regular season completing 67.9% of his passes for 4,322 yards. He threw 43 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also rushed for three more touchdowns. 

The journey is not done yet for Young and the Crimson Tide. Next up is the 2021 Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas. No. 1 Alabama will play No. 4 Cincinnati on Dec. 31 at 2:30 p.m. CT.