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SideLines: Lynch getting hard to ignore

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 11:27 a.m. CDT

He didn’t win.

Not to take anything away from him, but I don’t know if anyone outside this area seriously thought he would.

Last weekend, the winner of the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious individual award in college sports, was announced. Although he rated as high as fourth in one poll, Northern Illinois University quarterback Jordan Lynch didn’t really have a chance – not that he didn’t deserve it.

The Heisman is about the only thing the junior signal caller from Chicago didn’t win this season. After losing to Iowa 18-17 in the season opener, Lynch guided the Huskies to a school record 12 straight games to claim their second straight Mid-American Conference title and earning the school its first-ever trip to the Orange Bowl. Among other things,the Huskies are one of only two teams in the country to post three straight 11-win seasons, the only FBS school to win 21 of its last 22 games and has the longest conference home winning streak in the nation (21 games).

Lynch was named the MAC’s Vern Smith Leadership Award winner, Offensive Player of the Year and first team All-MAC quarterback. He was also named to CBSSports.com’s All-American team, third team honors, along with being one of 10 finalists for the Manning Award, given to the best college quarterback in the country.

If Lynch had won the Heisman, it would have been one of those larger-than-life stories of which sports myths are made. There would be the inevitable movie and books and songs on YouTube. I suppose there would be a Nikon contract and who knows what else. His family would probably be offered its own reality TV show, “Lunch with the Lynches” or maybe “The Lynch Mob.”

After all, it is an incredible story. Here’s this young man who sat on the bench for two years, supporting another pretty darn good quarterback in Chandler Harnish. When he finally gets his chance, what does he do? Just things that have never been done on a collegiate gridiron before. He was the first quarterback to rush for 1,771 yards in one season, rush for 100 or more yards 11 times, pass for more than 400 yards and rush for more than 150 in the same game. He needs just 38 more passing yards to become the first college QB ever to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for at least 1,500 in the same season.

Unfortunately, the Heisman usually goes to kids from the big schools: Baylor, Auburn, Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Southern California, Oklahoma, Nebraska. Although they have one of the premiere college football teams in the country now, ranking 15th on the BSC poll, the NIU program doesn’t have the same tradition and reputation as those schools, which takes decades to establish.

But they are edging closer to hallowed ground. Thanks to a revolving turnstile of head coaches, the Huskies have gone from “will they make a bowl game?” to “which bowl game will they be playing this year?” Five straight years in a bowl game and three straight years in the MAC title game is a nice start to what will hopefully become a long-standing tradition at Huskie Stadium.

So, no, he didn’t win. Not this year.

Next year could be a different story. Put up the same numbers next season – I really don’t know how that’s possible – along with a stellar performance in the Orange Bowl, and Jordan Lynch will be hard to ignore. No longer an unknown kid playing in the middle of the cornfields, people, hopefully, the right ones, will know about him.

More importantly, it will be difficult to pass over him.

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