Former UConn running back Donald Brown. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Six passes. That's the first thing I think about when I think about former UConn running back Donald Brown, not because he threw them, but because in his final college game--the 2009 International Bowl--UConn attempted exactly six passes. And it didn't matter, because UConn handed the ball to Brown 29 times and he responded by racking up an eye-popping 261 yards. He was that good, and that important to his team.
I've been thinking about that this week because EA Sports has asked us to write about the biggest Heisman Trophy snubs in history. I confess that before UConn made the jump to the FBS level, I wasn't a huge college football fan, or even a college football fan at all, so I didn't feel prepared to answer that question. But it did get me thinking: if Donald Brown was the best Husky of all time (and he was), how close did he get to the Heisman? And if he did not get there, could any Husky?
The quick answer to that question is no. Sure, someone from UConn could win the Heisman Trophy. Hell, Chandler Whitmer could throw for 4,000 yards and win it this year. But you and I know both know that's not going to happen, and even if it did the old boys network of college football is so strong--and UConn is so removed from it--that Whitmer probably would not even get an invite to the trophy ceremony.
Brown's the perfect example of why not.
Brown was an absolute monster in 2008. He ran for over 2,000 yards, something only 14 players had done before him, and carried the entirety of UConn's season on his back. And for all of his efforts he was awarded with absolutely no respect.
Every year the Doak Walker award is given to college football's top running back? Did Brown win it. Of course not. The honor went to Shonn Greene, which is defensible (he had a hell of a year). What's not defensible is that Brown was not even a finalist for the award. Those spots went to Knowshon Moreno and Javon Ringer, who had less impressive seasons, but wore uniforms that said "Georgia" and "Michigan St." instead of "UConn."
So you can forget about the Heisman. Sam Bradford won it that year, and none of Greene, Moreno, Ringer or Brown were named as finalists.
Did Brown deserve to win the Heisman? No. But the fact that he put up a herculean season and merited no mention for even the Walker award tells you just how far UConn has to go in terms of national perception, because you can bet that a player who had Brown's level of impact while wearing a Michigan or USC or Florida St. jersey would have gotten a much longer look than Brown did. One day there might be a Heisman Trophy sitting in Storrs, but I wouldn't bet on it happening anytime soon.
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