We’ve already discussed how Santonio Holmes was one of the breakout stars of Sunday’s Big Game, but without question the most impressive player on the field at Super Bowl XLIII was Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald. From his ridiculous leaping touchdown catch to his mach-five, 64-yard sprint to the end zone late in the fourth quarter, Larry Jr. definitely proved he belongs among the NFL’s elite players. The fifth year pro will head to his third Pro Bowl this year and it’s shocking that he’s not more of a household name, given the fact that he’s absolutely torn up the NFL over the past few seasons.
While guys like T.O. and Randy Moss get buckets of ink spilled about them, Fitzgerald has remained largely anonymous. Why is that? Well, he played at the University of Pittsburgh in college, not exactly a media mecca. But Larry was one of the best collegiate receivers to ever don pads. He was there for two years and in his final season, was clearly college football’s best player. He absolutely dominated against double and even triple teams all year, in the process he made a serious case to be one of the few receivers to win the Heisman Trophy. The problem? Awards voters love quarterbacks.
Yes when it came time to hand out the most prestigious individual award the sporting world has to offer, Fitzgerald didn’t hear his name called. Instead, the Heisman went to Jason White, average quarterback of the (soon-to-lose to LSU in the BCS Championship) Oklahoma Sooners.
In one of the closest votes in Heisman history, White received 1,481 points, while Fitzgerald got 1,353 (this list is interesting: 3rd place went to Eli Manning, 4th was Chris Perry, 5th Darren Sproles, 6th Matt Leinart, 7th Philip Rivers, 8th Mike Williams, 9th Ben Roethlisberger, 10th B.J. Symons). White and Fitzgerald each won three regions but the south and south-west were particularly unkind to Larry, he lost by over 100 points in those regions, which was essentially the difference.
White’s numbers weren’t bad or even average (3,846 yards, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) but his Sooners had just been blasted by Kansas State in the Big XII title game and didn’t deserve their spot in the BCS title game. Besides, anyone who actually watched a game that season knew Fitzgerald was the best player in all of college football. Bar none. No question about it. And if stats are what get you going, Larry’s numbers from 2003 are even more impressive than White’s: 87 catches, 1,595 yards, 22 touchdowns and an NCAA record streak of 18 straight games with at least one touchdown.
So how are the two gentlemen doing these days?
Well, Fitzgerald was the No. 3 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and just staked his claim to being the best receiver in the NFL after signing a four-year, $40 million extension last off season.
Jason White returned to OU for his senior year, got waxed in a second straight BCS title game, then wasn’t selected in the 2005 NFL Draft. White (who I’m sure is a wonderful guy) now runs an Oklahoma/Oklahoma State memorabilia store and a The Athlete’s Foot shoe store. I shit you not.
Somewhere, late Sunday night, Jason White sat in front of his television holding Larry Fitzgerald’s Heisman Trophy tight against his chest while rocking gently back and forth and trying to convince himself he actually earned it.
(Photo Courtesy of the SI Vault)