It would be so 2020 if somehow Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith beat out Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Florida quarterback Kyle Trask when the winner of the Heisman Trophy is announced Tuesday night on ESPN.
No wide receiver has won the Heisman since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991.
Before COVID turned college football into a what seems to be a never-ending episode of “Survivor,” there was some hope in West Lafayette that a healthy Rondale Moore would be Purdue’s first true Heisman contender since Drew Brees 20 years ago.
It wasn’t to be. Frankly, even if Purdue had gone 7-0 in the abbreviated Big Ten season, Moore would have suffered in comparison to the SEC and ACC contenders who played 12 or 13 games.
Then there’s the ESPN factor.
While Drew Brees was performing miracles leading Purdue to its most recent Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl berth in 2000, ESPN was fawning over a new breed of quarterback. Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick could run as well as pass and his highlight reel feats were made for a 24-hour sports network with a bully platform.
Neither Brees nor Vick won the Heisman. Two quarterbacks who will be forgotten outside of Talahassee, Fla., and Norman, Okla., - Chris Weinke of Florida State and Josh Heupel of Oklahoma – finished 1-2 in the voting. Brees finished third and settled for the Maxwell Award, given to college football’s best all-around player.
The Heisman outcome probably would not have changed even if ESPN had devoted similar coverage to Brees. Long-time Purdue fans, though, might recall a time when a magazine story may have cost the Boilermakers a Heisman.
In his book, “Boilermakers: A history of Purdue football,” the late Indianapolis Star sports editor Bob Collins wrote that Purdue athletic officials were sure that quarterback Bob Griese would win the school’s first Heisman following the 1966 season that saw him lead the Boilermakers to a 9-2 record and a Rose Bowl victory.
But around the time Heisman voting was taking place, Collins wrote that a magazine came out with a story that declared Florida’s Steve Spurrier would be a better pro prospect than Griese. Spurrier easily outdistanced Griese for the Heisman.
Griese ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Spurrier? He started 38 games over 10 seasons, throwing 20 more interceptions than touchdown passes.
Griese’s three years at Purdue (1964-66) were the beginning of a golden era for Boilermaker football.
While Griese was leading the Big Ten in total offense (1,387 yards) and scoring (81 points) in 1966, a sophomore named Leroy Keyes started down a path that would end with many believing he is the greatest player in Purdue football history.
In 1966, Keyes gained an average of 8.4 yards per carry. On kickoffs, he averaged more than 26 yards per return, which led the Big Ten.
The next year, Keyes set school records for average yards per carry with 6.6, most single-game yards with 225 against Illinois and most receiving yards in one game with 185 against Northwestern. It was unusual for a junior to finish third in Heisman voting, which set expectations for a Heisman run in 1968.
Keyes did his part, ending a career that saw him rush for 2,090 yards and becoming the first Purdue player to score more than 200 points (222).
But Keyes’ timing was bad. O.J. Simpson was dominant for USC and was a deserving Heisman winner.
Keyes was gone but not Purdue’s Heisman hopes. Record-setting passer Mike Phipps lost one of the closest races in Heisman history, finishing second to Oklahoma running back Steve Owens by 154 points in 1969.
Three years later, running back Otis Armstrong finished eighth in Heisman voting. All-American quarterback Mark Herrmann twice was in the top 10, eighth in 1979 and fourth in 1980. Leading the NCAA in total offense garnered Jim Everett a sixth-place finish in 1985.
In 1995, Purdue athletics started a campaign asking if a fullback could win the Heisman? The answer was no – Mike Alstott finished 11th in voting but he wrapped up a great career with 3,371 rushing yards to set the school record.
There was no such thing as a Heisman campaign in 1943. World War II’s outcome was very much in doubt when the Marine Corps sent Tony Butkovich to West Lafayette.
In seven games before being called to active duty, Butkovich managed to break a 21-year-old Big Ten scoring record with 78 points and rushed for 833 yards on 142 carries. Purdue went on to finish 9-0 and Butkovich earned first-team All-America and All-Big Ten honors.
Butkovich finished eighth in Heisman voting. Despite only playing six games, Notre Dame quarterback Angelo Bertelli won over a field that included future all-time great Otto Graham of Northwestern.

Second chance
Gene Keady, Purdue’s winningest basketball coach, is among the candidates for induction into the 2020 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class.
It’s the second time the 83-year-old Keady has been on the Naismith ballot, missing out on induction in 2015.
It would be deserving if Keady can be honored while he’s still among us. Former Illinois coach Lou Henson is on the ballot for the first time, five months after his death.
Another former Purdue coach, the late Fred Schaus, is among the Veterans Committee’s nominees. The Veterans list also includes former Indiana Pacers guards Freddie Lewis and Donnie Freeman plus Indiana high school legends Tom and Dick Van Arsdale.
Two active coaches are on the ballot, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Villanova’s Jay Wright.

Bowl picks
Look for the Big Ten to go 1-2 this weekend, with Indiana salvaging the conference’s pride in the Outback Bowl on Saturday.
Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral threw 14 interceptions in nine games this season, while Indiana’s defense collected 17 interceptions in seven games. Sounds like the formula for the Hoosiers’ first bowl victory since 1991.
There’s a good chance both College Football Playoff games Friday will not be competitive. Even though Clemson coach Dabo Swinney gave Ohio State motivation by ranking the Buckeyes 11th in his coaches poll vote, the Tigers are a better team with Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne on offense.
Top-ranked Alabama is not a good matchup for Notre Dame, which is coming off a 34-10 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship game. The Crimson Tide simply are more talented at nearly every position.
Look for the SEC to earn another New Year’s Day bowl victory with Auburn defeating Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl.
Saturday’s picks are Texas A&M over North Carolina (Orange), Iowa State over Oregon (Fiesta), Cincinnati over Georgia (Peach) and N.C. State over Kentucky (Gator).

The Big Ten has nine teams ranked in the Associated Press and USA Today men’s basketball polls for the first time.
According to BTNStatsGuys on Twitter, it’s the most ranked teams for any conference since the Big East had nine teams on March 7, 2011. Purdue received votes in the USA Today coaches poll, while Indiana did the same in the Associated Press rankings . . .
No. 19 Northwestern recorded its first 3-0 conference start since the 1967-68 season with victories last week over Indiana and Ohio State.

Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Courier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.