Todd Van Emst/Associated Press
When the Heisman Trophy winner’s name was called on Saturday night at Lincoln Center in New York City, it wasn’t a surprise at all. Alabama sophomore quarterback Bryce Young had a tremendous finish to the 2021 regular season, and because of that he secured college football’s most prestigious individual honor.
Young became the first QB in Crimson Tide history to win the Heisman. He received 2,311 points and 684 first-place votes in a landslide victory over Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (second place with 954 points, 78 first-place votes). Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (third) and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud (fourth) were the other finalists.
While leading Alabama to a 12-1 record, the SEC championship and the No. 1 seed in the CFP, Young passed for 4,322 yards, 43 touchdowns and only four interceptions. When he received the Heisman on Saturday, he was quick to credit his Crimson Tide teammates and coaches.
“Whenever you can win an award like this, it doesn’t go as an individual award but it’s a team award because I couldn’t do it without any of those guys,” Young said in his speech, per ESPN’s Alex Scarborough. “I’d like to thank Coach [Nick] Saban. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for your guidance and putting me in situations to be successful and for us as a team to be successful.”
Although an Alabama quarterback had never won the Heisman, Young became the fourth Crimson Tide player to win the award, all of whom have done so after Saban took over as head coach in 2007. Running backs Mark Ingram II (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015) and wide receiver DeVonta Smith (2020) are the others.
Smith didn’t attend Saturday’s ceremony, as he’s currently playing his rookie season for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. But last year’s Heisman winner sent Young a message via a video shared by Alabama on Twitter:
Crimson Tide sophomore linebacker Will Anderson Jr., who finished fifth in this year’s Heisman voting, was also among the many current and former Alabama players who congratulated Young on social media:
There have been plenty of talented quarterbacks to play for the Crimson Tide, especially in recent years. Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa were Heisman finalists, but neither captured the award.
Young did what those other stellar QBs couldn’t. And Saban shared his reason why he thinks that’s the case.
“A lot of the other teams that we’ve had have been older, with lots of really good players and the quarterback didn’t need to be the focal point that Bryce had to be on this team this year,” Saban said, per Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press.
When Alabama has needed Young to be its leader, he’s done that, too. He powered the Tide to a come-from-behind win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 27, leading a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter and guiding them to victory in four overtimes.
Against a dominant Georgia defense in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4, Young passed for 421 yards and three touchdowns while adding a rushing score in the Crimson Tide’s 41-24 victory. That performance made Young the clear front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy.
“It’s really about belief in yourself and it’s about belief in your preparation and your abilities and not allowing people to write your story and to dictate your life to you,” Young’s father, Craig, said during the ESPN broadcast, per Scarborough. “And I think he personifies that.”
Young likely has a lot of big performances for Alabama still ahead of him. He’s going to try to lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship (beginning with a Cotton Bowl matchup against Cincinnati on Dec. 31), and he’ll be back in 2022 for his junior season.
The only player to win the Heisman twice is Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who did so in 1974 and 1975. Perhaps Young can make more history by joining Griffin next year and giving Alabama a Heisman three-peat.