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Heisman Hijinx: What If?

No, not him.  We beat him, remember?  Then again, we beat the guy I picked, too...  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
No, not him. We beat him, remember? Then again, we beat the guy I picked, too... (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Yesterday was the big release day for EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Obviously, the big selling point for this year's edition of the venerable franchise is the special Heisman Trophy Winner mode, where you get to take one of a selected group of prior Heisman winners and plop them on any team you want, no matter how evil and unacceptable said choice may be.

This somewhat naturally brings to mind the question of which Heisman Trophy winner we most wish had suited up for our beloved Wildcats. There are a good number of them that I can say I'd wish played for K-State, obviously; in almost any imaginable case having the Heisman winner in Manhattan would be an improvement over the player they'd be replacing.

Looking things over, I think I have a pretty clear winner in this discussion -- though obviously, if you have different ideas, this is the place to talk about them.

Before we get to my selection, I think it's important to note that in some cases it wouldn't be enough of an improvement to actually wish we'd had a given Heisman winner rather than the player we know and love. For instance, I would not have rather had Jason White than Ell Roberson in 2003, and neither would you. There are some other no-gos for different reasons; as awesome as Barry Sanders was, I can't say with any honesty that I wish KSU had lured Barry to Manhattan... because if Barry Sanders played for K-State, Stan Parrish might not have been such a colossal failure, and we might never have hired Bill Snyder. That's just not a price we can agree to pay for this exercise. In fact, for that very reason I'm ruling out every Heisman winner prior to Sanders as well.

1997 and 1998 were the real apex of K-State's national success, and it was primarily driven by one of the newest members of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. Michael Bishop was a revelation; over his two-year career in Manhattan after transferring from Blinn Junior College, Bishop racked up eye-popping numbers. He rushed for 1304 yards and 23 touchdowns over those two seasons, and threw for 4401 yards and 36 TDs. Joining Bishop in the backfield was Eric Hickson, who rumbled for 1652 yards and 18 TDs over the two years, and we naturally remember Eric very fondly as one of the best running backs in program history.

But what if K-State had signed a young running back out of San Diego in 1995? What if the electric Bishop, who finished second in the 1998 Heisman balloting, had been joined in the backfield by the guy who beat him?

Ricky Williams was a phenomenon. While there's a reasonable argument that Bishop deserved the Heisman himself over Williams (and may very well have won it if not for That Fumble in That Game which We Don't Discuss), it's also equally and incontrovertibly true that Williams was not a "poor" choice for the award by any stretch. Williams ended his career as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher, breaking the 22-year-old record previously held by Tony Dorsett. In 1998, he'd rambled for an outrageous 2124 yards and 27 scores; this followed his 1997 campaign in which he gained 1893 yards with 25 scores. As serviceable as Hickson was, and as much as we adore him... there's no question Williams would have been a significant improvement at the position.

Now, it's easy enough to turn the argument around and point out that with Williams sharing the backfield, Bishop wouldn't have put up the numbers he did. That's true. But imagine what opposing defenses would have had to contend with: a hall-of-fame running back, and a passer capable of launching bombs to a corps of speedy receivers who was also incredibly dangerous on the ground in his own right. Mix in some work from Hickson, and K-State may have had the most incredible backfield anyone reading this really remembers.

Maybe the 1996 Wildcats, in the first year of the Big 12, are able to get past Colorado and BYU (remember, KSU still jumped Colorado for the Cotton Bowl berth anyway) to go 11-1. Maybe the 1997 Wildcats are able to control the ground game enough to overcome the Cornhuskers and then go unbeaten. And most importantly, maybe in 1998 Michael Bishop doesn't lose control of that football at precisely the wrong moment, and K-State wins back-to-back titles and racks up a completely insane 37-1 three-year record. (Now, as you roll that around your brain, consider the impact a run like that would have had on recruiting for later years. Oh, my.)

I can't really come up with any post-1988 Heisman winner who would have had a more beneficial impact on Wildcat history. Would it have been nice to have Eric Crouch and avoid the 6-6 stumble in 2001? Sure. But the program rebounded from that, albeit temporarily. Would any of the winners from 2004-2009 been nice to have around? You bet. Cam Newton? That might be a pretty good argument, I suppose. Still, I don't think any of those options has anywhere near the potential impact that signing Ricky Williams would have had.

Alas, Ricky's not one of the options available in NCAA Football 13, and in fact the only one available I think I'd honestly wish we'd had in Manhattan is Mark Ingram (and even he's only available if you pre-ordered from GameStop). So, who would you wish for out of all the Heisman winners, and who among the players that are available would you like to have had?

This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.

EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13 TV: "Son" (via EASPORTS)