Why Not Kaepernick?
By Paul Myerberg // Jul 9, 2010
If you haven’t noticed, there’s a cute little sidebar along the right side of this page that lists my 10 Heisman contenders heading into the summer. I won’t repeat the list here, as you can scroll down and check it out yourself, but I will warn you: while perusing my 10 choices, you may have the suspicion that something — or someone — is missing. I won’t blame you for feeling that way. There is someone missing from that list — Jake Locker, Washington’s senior quarterback.
This is no oversight: 24-7 media outlets and the university’s P.R. team may get Locker into the conversation, but he’s not your typical Heisman favorite; not now, not in September, not unless the Huskies exceed all expectations and finish in the top two in the Pac-10. Possible? Yes. Likely? No. Locker, in a perfect world, would have to settle for the millions that await him on the next level. However, there’s no overestimating the importance of good advertising, whether print, television, online, billboard, what have you.
Locker will be mentioned as a Heisman guy, especially in September, before a few U.W. setbacks take the bloom off the rose. For now, however, there’s another dual-threat quarterback, also playing out west, who is at least equally deserving of being included in the Heisman conversation. His name is Colin Kaepernick, and his resume dwarfs what Locker brings to the table.
Let’s get one thing clear, however: I’m not calling out Locker, Washington, or the process by which the Heisman trophy is awarded. Well, I don’t love the last part, but that’s a story for a later date, likely this December. Locker is a superb athlete, albeit one that has been stuck on largely inept clubs, and has the arm and running ability to be the best player in the Pac-10. And Washington, for that matter, is ready to return to bowl play in Steve Sarkisian’s second season; the Huskies had yet to pop up on the Countdown, if that means anything.
Locker is 8-20 as a starter on the college level — again, not entirely his fault — with the potential to double his career win output with a solid 2010. He’ll have to do at least that in order to be in the running for the trophy: he’s a talented, big-name, good-looking, white quarterback — did I mention he’s a good-looking white guy? — but no one is winning the Heisman and then heading to the Las Vegas Bowl.
Yes, I realize I’m playing a nasty devil’s advocate here. Washington surely could sneak up on the Pac-10 — though I’m betting against it — and Locker surely could live up to his billing with, say, a 2,000-yard passing, 1,000-yard rushing campaign. Something he has nearly done before, mind you. Locker could surely do that. And if he did, he’d have one less 2,000-yard passing, 1,000-yard rushing season than does Kaepernick, who has achieved that feat in each of the last two seasons.
The Nevada senior enters the 2010 season as a three-year starter, a three-time bowl participant and an N.C.A.A. record holder: Kaepernick will again throw for 2,000 yards and rush for another 1,000 in 2010, but no other player in college football history has done it more than once. So what does Locker have that Kaepernick lacks? Why is one in the Heisman running and one barely known outside the WAC?
For precisely that reason, of course: that one plays on the national stage, one on ESPN2 on Thursday nights. Which is unfortunate. In a perfect world, players like Kaepernick — players with sterling resumes — would be viable options for college football’s most prestigious award. It’s a flawed process, however, and while a quarterback with eight career wins is considered a Heisman front-runner, the rest of the competition lags.
Again, no knock against Locker. He’s a pleasure to watch, a sure-fire talent and an integral part of Washington’s rebuilding hopes. I’d just like to see him do some more on the field, a la Kaepernick, before earning such acclaim.
So there’s the first of many, many Heisman posts to come before the trophy is awarded in December. Most of the Heisman-related posts over the rest of the summer will focus on players like Kaepernick, under-recognized performers who likely aren’t in the race, but should be. And I’ll touch on the favorites — yes, Locker too — as we get closer to September, and obviously during the season.
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