No kidding: LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels becomes school’s third winner of Heisman Trophy

Outdistances Washington's Michael Penix, Oregon's Bo Nix for college football's best player

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels and head coach Brian Kelly celebrate Daniels becoming the latest winner of the Heisman Trophy in New York. PHOTO BY: LSU athletics

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels is used to eluding defenders.

He was able to stiff-arm the last three on his way to the fabled Heisman Trophy.

Daniels, a fifth-year senior, become the third player in LSU history and second in five years to win the 89th Heisman Memorial Trophy Saturday at the Lincoln Center in New York

Daniels joined LSU’s exclusive club with running back Billy Cannon (1959) and quarterback Joe Burrow (2019) as winners of the prestigious award.

“Dad, you put football in my hand when I was young,” Daniels said, speaking to his father Javon Daniels during his acceptance speech. “I know you raised me to be a corner, but hopefully now the decision paid off. You taught me how to play and be calm no matter what the situation, and I know I wouldn’t be on this stage without you.”

Daniels received 503 first-place votes and 2,021 total points to outdistance runner-up Michael Penix Jr. of Washington who has 292 first-place votes and 1,701 total points. Oregon quarterback Bo Nix (51 first-place votes, 885 total points), Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (28 first-place votes, 352 total points) and Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis (8 first-place votes, 85 total points) rounded out the field.

Daniels became the fourth Heisman winner in the last five years from a Southeastern Conference school and LSU tied six other schools for third place on list of winners. Notre Dame leads all-time with seven winners and Alabama four.

Daniels was also the first player since 2016 to win the Heisman from a team that did not play for a conference championship. He won four of the six geographic regions: South (433 points), Mid-Atlantic (314), Northeast (334) and Southwest (379).

“Everything that he did he had a purpose,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said of Daniels’ offseason workload. “Every single day he was purposeful in what he did and what his intentions were, and that was to be the best quarterback in NCAA football. That was his drive every single day.

“He worked on the things he needed to work on, and he helped us put together a program built on leadership,” Kelly said. “The things he did to build the leadership within the program, the peer accountability. Those are the some of the things you don’t even see that he helped us as well.”

Daniels put together the type of season that helped him overcome a season in which LSU went 9-3, didn’t win the SEC Championship or qualify for the four-team College Football Playoff.

Daniels had one of the best all-around seasons for a quarterback in college football history with a nation’s best total in total offense (412.2), passing touchdowns (40), total TDs (50) and rushing yards for a player at his position (1,134).

“I learned how to block out the noise,” Daniels said. “That you can overcome any obstacle and just be humble, be legendary and be joyful about what you do. And when you get knocked down, get back up. Keep smiling and never give up on your dreams.”

Daniels’ 412.2 total yards per game are more than 85 other FBS teams and his 50 total TDs are more than what 91 teams scored this year. He averaged an FBS-best 10.71 yards per play and he’s also first in the country in yards per pass attempt at 11.7.

Daniels’ passer efficiency rating of 208.01 is the highest in FBS history. He’s completed 236-of-327 passes for 3,812 yards, 40 TDs and only four interceptions and he became the second player in SEC history – the other being Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel – to pass for more than 3,000 yards (3,812) and rush for more than a 1,000 yards (1,134) in the same season.

Penix and Nix combined for 210 yards rushing.

“Just wanted to send you a note of congratulations from one Tiger to another,” Burrow said in a phone message earlier in the week to Daniels. “Congrats on an incredible career. Congrats on an incredible season and congrats on being named a Heisman finalist. Nothing but respect for the way you’ve worked, the way you play and the way you represent LSU. I can’t wait to watch you on Sundays. Until then, keep being you.”

In a year of firsts Daniels established an SEC single-game record of 606 total yards but was the first player in FBS history to rush for 200 yards (234) and pass for 350 yards (372) in the same game – a 52-35 victory over Florida on Nov. 11. The following week he matched Burrow’s school record by accounting eight touchdowns against Georgia State (6 passing, 2 rushing) in a 56-14 demolition.

Daniels reached the 50-TD mark in his final home game when he led LSU to a 42-30 win over Texas A&M on Nov. 25. That milestone helped him become one of five players in SEC history to achieve that distinction with Burrow (63), Tim Tebow (55), Cam Newton (51) and Bryce Young – all Heisman Trophy winners.

“This is a dream come true,” Daniels said. “To Bo, Mike and Marvin, you guys are amazing. I enjoy watching but the competition’s never over. I look forward to seeing you guys on Sundays.”

After deciding to return to LSU for a fifth year of eligibility Daniels was simply magnificent.

Daniels, who had the second-best odds to win the Heisman behind returning winner Caleb Williams of USC when the season began, directed LSU’s top-ranked offense in points and total offense with an explosive flair. He led the country in plays of 20-plus yards with 90 (70 passing, 20 rushing), and also led the Tigers to a nation’s best 62.6% succession rate on their possessions. The Arizona State transfer became the first FBS player to ever pass for more than 12,000 (12,749) yards and rush for over 3,000 (3,307) yards in a career.

Daniels was able to become the first LSU player to pass for more than 6,000 yards (6,725) and rush for 2,000 yards (2,019) in a career.

Daniels enjoyed a memorable week where the awards were coming in his direction faster than opposing defenses. He was named first team All-SEC and the league’s Offensive Outstanding Player before adding the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award on Thursday and the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and Walter Camp Player of Year on Friday.

Then came the biggest one of them all on Saturday – the Heisman Trophy.

“Thanks for trusting in me to lead your team,” said Daniels, thanking Kelly, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, quarterbacks coach Joe Sloan and running backs coach Frank Wilson. “I learned so much from you guys. You took a kid from the West Coast and brought me down to the bayou. I’m forever thankful.”

author avatar
William Weathers

1 Comment

  1. I remember that at the end of last season, when Walker Howard announced his transfer to Texas A&M, someone posted on this site that he wished Jayden Daniels was transferring instead of Howard.
    I wonder how many games into this season did it take that person to realize he bet on the wrong horse.

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