It wasn’t exactly a Heisman Trophy performance, which is to say Taysom Hill’s prime time showing Thursday night was very good, but it wasn’t jaw-dropping.
Jaw-dropping performances in prime time – when you’re the only college game on TV – win the hearts and minds of voters. And that’s one reason I went to Provo for the BYU-Houston game.
Hill, BYU’s star quarterback, rushed 26 times for 160 yards and a touchdown. He also completed 21 of 34 passes for 200 yards and another TD. But he also threw a couple of interceptions. By default, he also gets docked brownie points because his Cougars jumped out to a 23-0 lead in the second quarter but failed to turn the game into a blowout.
No, it’s not really fair. It wasn’t all his fault, but that’s the way the game is played. His name is now being mentioned among the Heisman hopefuls, which certainly is warranted. Now, it’s all about “Heisman moments,” as the expression goes.
Hill had one last week at Texas when he hurdled that Longhorns’ defender. It was the kind of optic revelation that sticks in the minds of media, fans and, of course, Heisman voters.
With all those eyes watching the ESPN-televised game, Hill could have used a few more of those moments Thursday against Houston. He made some nice plays, no doubt, but nothing with a Heisman signature on it.
Nothing iconic, like a Doug Flutie Hail Mary to beat Miami, a Desmond Howard punt return punctuated with a Heisman pose or a Reggie Bush oh-no-he-didn’t 50-yard TD run.
Let’s be clear: athletes have captured the Heisman without a truly signature moment. There have been signature seasons (Tim Tebow, Barry Sanders, Archie Griffin) and signature victories (Johnny Manziel beating Alabama, Ty Detmer beating Miami) and so Hill’s name will continue to be be mentioned among the Heisman hopefuls, theoretically for the remainder of the season.
To his credit, Hill doesn’t seem to care. Oh sure, he’s flattered by the talk and somewhere in his head he’s doing a mental fist-pump because, well, who wouldn’t? But he’s not a hey-look-at-me kind of guy.
Playing on Thursday night, in front of a prime time national audience was a great thing for him, personally. It gave him a stage and a spotlight and he performed well, for the most part.
He was asked what it’s like to hear his name in the Heisman buzz and to be out there, in the center ring.
“Honestly, I try to do my best to stay in the moment,” he said, to nobody’s surprise.
“You know, we have to keep winning and we’re going to get some great publicity for our program and our school,” he added. “But I know in order for that to happen, we just have to take care of business.”
That was a fairly boring response from a non-controversial guy. There’s not a lot of Johnny Football in Taysom Hill and that’s not such a bad thing.
Strictly in terms of the Heisman, humility plays. For every Johnny Football holding the trophy there have been a dozen other Tebow types who seem to have a love-hate relationship with the limelight.
Look, I’m not saying Hill’s going to win the Heisman or even that he’s a frontrunner at this point. But he’s now in the conversation, legitimately so. From a school, team and fanbase perspective, that’s a great thing.
Know what else is great?
Hill’s willingness to share the spotlight. He’s a team guy, which seems like an easy thing to be. But it’s not, not when you’re the star of the team and the words “Heisman hopeful” are suddenly tacked on to the front of your name.
“I love playing this game,” he said without a trace of phoniness. “I love my teammates. I love battling for them.”
Well there you have it: he loves them; and clearly they love him. All you need is love … and an undeniable Heisman moment.
When you have those, you have everything.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo