Here’s one solid vote for the Honey Badger for Heisman

One of the greatest nature documentaries I’ve ever seen was called “Badger: The Meanest Animal on the Planet.”

Intrigued by the title alone, I was quickly sold on the badger’s place atop the meanness pyramid. The honey badger was particularly fierce, destroying a tree that housed bee colony and devouring the comb while being repeatedly stung in the face. Now that’s mean!

So maybe that 60 minutes has biased my opinion about this year’s Heisman Trophy race. The five finalists were announced Monday, and No. 1 LSU’s Tyrann Matthieu made the list despite being primarily a defensive player and doing much of his damage late in the season.

In reality, the “Honey Badger,” as he is known by teammates and now the rest of the college football world, has been making big plays all season for the BCS title game-bound Bayou Bengals; it’s just that most football fans are too busy watching the offensive stars to see a diamond in the rough liike Matthieu.

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and Alabama running back Trent Richardson were the other chosen four, and they touched the ball enough times and put up the stats to earn them a spot at the New York Downtown Athletic Club on Saturday.

But while Luck and Griffin were throwing deep and Ball and Richardson were carrying the load, no player in college football did more to help his team win than Matthieu. He tackled, he stripped balls, he returned kickoffs and punts, he intercepted, he single-covered, and most of all, his team won every game.

From LSU’s season-opening victory over Oregon, when Matthieu stripped two Ducks of the football and recovered one, to the Tigers’ 42-10 win over Georgia in last week’s SEC championship game, when the Honey Badger returned a punt for LSU’s only points and positive yardage of the first half, No. 7 has been everywhere all the time.

Those are the kinds of season-saving plays that are deserving of the title “College football’s greatest player” distinction, as the Heisman is defined. Instead it has become a battle of the stat sheet, with yards and points counting more than tackles and turnovers.

Not to minimize the other four candidates. The front-runner Luck, a redshirt junior who bypassed the NFL, threw for 3,170 yards and a school-record 35 touchdowns while being named the Pac-12 offensive player of the year for fourth-ranked Stanford.

Ball, a junior running back, rushed for 1,759 yards and 32 touchdowns in helping the real Badgers return to the Rose Bowl for a second consecutive season. Griffin threw for 3,998 yards and 38 touchdowns in his junior year to carry the Bears to a 9-3 record, and Richardson, a junior, ran for 1,583 yards and 20 touchdowns for Alabama.

Meanwhile, Mathieu was named the SEC’s defensive player of the year while making 76 tackles and two interceptions, and returning a pair of punts for touchdowns. No quadruple-digit stats, but they don’t tell the full story. The Honey Badger plays with heart, and they haven’t come up with a category on the scoreboard that can measure that.

But they do have awards for such players, the kind that are decided by free-thinking humans and not BCS computers that simply process data and yield a result. Heisman voters have enough football background to make an objective decision about which player willed his team to an undefeated season and inspired teammates to great heights.

We know the Honey Badger is the meanest animal on the planet. Here’s to hoping he’s also the 77th Heisman Trophy winner.

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