How come no one is talking about Malcolm Perry as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy?
Perry was just named Offensive Player of the Year in one of the best college football conferences. Most of the important metrics place the American Athletic Conference on almost equal terms with a pair of alleged Power Five conference – the Atlantic Coast and Pacific-12.
Perry certainly measures up statistically, ranking fifth nationally in rushing average with 136.4 yards per game and sixth in both rushing yardage (1,500) and rushing touchdowns (19). All five players ahead of the Navy quarterback are running backs.
Most pundits have all but handed the Heisman Trophy to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who has passed for 4,715 yards and 48 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Burrow’s breakout season is the main reason the Tigers (13-0) are No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts and the Ohio State duo of quarterback Justin Fields and defensive end Chase Young are the other finalists. This year’s winner will be announced Saturday night (8 p.m.) in New York City during a ceremony televised nationally by ESPN.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, runner-up in the Heisman voting in 2018, would have been a finalist had he not suffered a season-ending injury late last month.
Oklahoma State running back Chubba Hubbard, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm are others mentioned in connection to the Heisman Trophy over the course of the 2019 campaign.
At no point this season has Perry received serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy, and that’s a darn shame. It reflects a bias on the part of the national media against players from the so-called Group of Five conferences.
I believe it would take an astonishing statistical season for an undefeated, highly ranked team for any player from the Group of Five to even become a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Based off the flawed perception that players from Power Five schools are superior, I highly doubt we’ll ever see a Heisman Trophy winner from a Group of Five program again.
Scott Strasemeier, associate athletic director for sports information at the Naval Academy, believes the Heisman Trophy description should be revised. Supposedly, the Heisman is presented to the most outstanding player in college football. In reality, it now always goes to the most outstanding player from among the exclusive bastion of the self-proclaimed Power Five conferences.
Strasemeier confronted that new, unspoken standard in 2015 when record-setting Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was not even invited to attend the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony. Alabama running back Derrick Henry was the winner that year, while Reynolds finished fifth in the voting.
“I don’t even pay attention to the Heisman Trophy anymore, because unfortunately a large majority of the voters just look at five conferences and ignore the rest of the country,” Strasemeier told The Capital. “Malcolm Perry absolutely deserves to be mentioned for the award, and I expect him to get votes, but it’s become a Power 5 popularity contest. When they didn’t invite Keenan Reynolds to New York for the ceremony, that was the final straw for me.”
I’ve watched a lot of college football this season and have seen most of the top players perform. I can assure any reader of this column there is not a more exciting and spectacular runner than Malcolm Perry in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision.
What Perry does to make defenders miss, both in traffic and the open field, is simply breathtaking. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound speedster’s jaw-dropping, ankle-breaking moves must be replayed several times to truly be appreciated.
Simply put, Perry has the ability make even the best defender miss with his arsenal of full-speed head-and-shoulder fakes, change-of-direction cutbacks and hop steps. It’s almost comical to see would-be tacklers that think they are in perfect position to wrap up Perry left grasping for air.
Reynolds forced his way onto the Heisman Trophy radar with a record-setting career and historic senior season. He caught the attention of many voters by setting the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns with 88.
Reynolds holds the Navy career record for rushing yards (4,559) and ranks third in school history in passing yards (4,001). He is also the program leader for passing touchdowns (31).
Perry has also enjoyed a remarkable career, becoming only the second player in Navy history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in three straight seasons. Reynolds was the other, while legendary tailbacks such as Napoleon McCallum and Eddie Meyers never accomplished the feat.
Perry is on the verge of setting the Navy single season record for rushing yardage, breaking the mark of 1,587 established by McCallum way back in 1983. He currently ranks third in program history with 3,842 career rushing yards and – with two games left – could potentially pass McCallum (4,179) for second place behind Reynolds.
Perry has amassed 2,527 yards of total offense (rushing and passing) so far and is almost assured of setting the school record in that category. He has the most 100-yard rushing games (nine) in a single season and stands second at Navy with four 200-yard rushing outings.
Perry ranks second behind McCallum for career all-purpose yardage with 4,803, a figure that includes kickoff returns. It would be impossible to list all the places in the Navy record book that Perry has etched his name.
There have been times this season when Perry put the offense on his back and led Navy to victory with the Air Force, Tulane and SMU games coming to mind. Bottom line, Navy would not be 9-2 without the consistently outstanding play of Perry.
For all of what he’s done this season in an extremely challenging and vastly underrated conference, Perry should be in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy. It’s not fair or right that Navy’s superstar quarterback will not receive many, if any, votes.
“Obviously, Malcolm is very deserving to be mentioned in connection to that award,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said when asked about the Heisman. “However, Malcolm would be the first one to tell you that’s not what he is focused on.”
TOUCHDOWN CLUB EVENT: The Touchdown Club of Annapolis will hold its annual Army-Navy Cocktail Party on Wednesday night inside the Akerson Tower high atop Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk and head football coach Ken Niumatalolo will both speak at the event, which is open to Touchdown Club members that have paid their annual dues or do so at the door.