Source: USA TODAY
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Saturday’s Heisman Trophy Award just got a little more drama on Thursday at the Home Depot College Football Awards when Florida State’s Jameis Winston became the second freshman to claim the O’Brien Award for the nation’s top quarterback but Alabama’s AJ McCarron took home the Maxwell Award as the top player in the country.
McCarron said he was “super surprised.” He added, ‘”I don’t think I’m the best player out of those three (finalists).” Winston and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel the others.
The O’Brien could be a huge omen for Winston, who threw for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns. Six of the last seven winners have gone on to claim the Heisman. FSU and BYU are the only schools to produce three winners of the award.
“I’m just enjoying the night,” Winston said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity. Those guys are all great and it’s just fun to be in their presence.”
McCarron, who had 2,676 yards passing and 26 TDs, was the first player from Alabama to win the Maxwell and the first from the SEC since Cam Newton in 2010. He’s made clear his feelings about being invited to New York for the Heisman, saying if he doesn’t win it he still has three national title rings to wear.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn won the national coach of the year award. He was the first coach in 66 years to lead a team to the SEC championship in his first season, going 12-1 and earning a berth against FSU in the Jan. 6 national title game.
“Our guys play hard and play together,” Malzahn said. “They’ve had a lot of fun.”
Jan. 6 is also Winston’s birthday.
“Even though it’s my birthday, it’s a business thing,” said Winston, who was also named the Walter Camp player of the year. “We’ve got to go out there and play.”
A third Heisman candidate, running back Andre Williams, became the first Boston College player to claim the Doak Walker Award. Williams was the first player in five years to go over 2,000 yards on the ground. He was also the first winner from the ACC.
Williams was supposed to attend his graduation ceremony on Thursday but attended the awards ceremony instead.
“Tonight it feels like I was being honored as an athlete and student at the same time. . . . The last couple of months was a blur, especially the last three weeks,” he said.
Williams, with 2,102 yards and 17 scores, said it was “part of the mission” to graduate in December so he can concentrate on getting ready for the NFL Draft after Boston College’s AdvoCare Bowl game on Dec. 31 against Arizona.
Winston is trying to become the second redshirt freshman to ever win the Heisman, with Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel the first. Manziel, who threw for 3,732 yards and ran for another 686, was shut out in the awards on Thursday night.
“He didn’t get caught up in his success,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of Winston. “He remembered why he had success.”
Other winners included Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh, the night’s only double winner while claiming the Chuck Bednarik Award for college defensive player of the year and the Outland Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman. Donald was the first Panther to win the Bednarik.
Donald was also recognized this week as the Nagurski Trophy winner as the nation’s outstanding defensive player and the Lombardi Award for the nation’s outstanding lineman.
Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks claimed the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver, the second straight winner of the award from the Pac-12. Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo claimed the Lou Groza as the top place kicker in the country. Aguayo was the third Seminole to win the honor, causing him to declare FSU as, “Kicker University.”
Aguayo joined former FSU kickers Aguayo Sebastian Janikowski (1998 and 1999) and Graham Gano (2003) as ‘Noles Groza Award winners. The redshirt freshman set a school and ACC season record for points (147) this season. He is 19-of-20 in field goals and has made all 90 if his extra points.
Aguayo attended South Lake High School in central Florida.
“I lived down the road 35-40 minutes from here,” said Aguayo, a freshman, “And coming back and winning it here means a lot to me.”
Tom Hornsey of Memphis won the other kicking award, the Ray Guy for punters. He was the first player from Memphis to win one of the Home Depot College Football Awards since Joe Allison won the Groza in 1992.
Darqueze Dennard became the first player from Michigan State to win the Jim Thorpe for the top defensive back in the nation. He said he set winning the award as a goal after watching the Thorpe given out last year.
The visit to Florida has been “crazy.” MSU beat Ohio State and former Gators coach Urban Meyer to claim the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
“Everywhere I have gone since I’ve been (in Florida) everyone tells me they appreciated (MSU beating Ohio State),” Dennard said.
The Rimington Trophy for the nation’s top center also went to a Florida State player, Bryan Stork to give the Seminoles three winners. The John Mackey Award for the nation’s top tight end was awarded to Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington and Tulane safety Devon Walker received the Disney Spirit Award.
Jones also writes for Florida Today.