The Heisman watch turned into exactly that for Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb. He knew he had no chance to win the coveted trophy, and he wasn't even invited to the party.
"I was little bit disappointed, a little bit upset, but it's an honor to be a part of that and see my name up there as one of the top college players in the country," he said.
McNabb was at the Carrier Dome on Saturday night with his teammates to accept the Big East championship trophy around the time Ricky Williams was cradling the Heisman in his arms.
"It's going to add incentive for me to work harder to try to be the best," he said.
McNabb finished fifth in the balloting with 13 first-place votes and 232 points. Williams was the easy winner with 714 first-place votes and 2,355 points. The Texas tailback set or tied 16 NCAA records and 44 school marks in leading the Longhorns into a Cotton Bowl matchup against Mississippi State on New Year's Day. Among the career records he set: yards (6,279), scoring (452 points), touchdowns (75) and all-purpose yards (7,206).
"I knew Ricky Williams was going to win it, but being here in the state of New York and not being able to go down there to the Downtown Athletic Club, it hurt a little bit," McNabb said as he stood inside the university's football hall of fame next to a collage of photos of Ernie Davis, Syracuse's lone Heisman winner in 1961.
Quarterbacks Michael Bishop of Kansas State (41 firsts, 792 points), Cade McNown of UCLA (28, 696), and Tim Couch of Kentucky (26, 527) finished behind Williams. The top four vote-getters were invited to watch the proceedings, as was Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson when he finished second in the Heisman voting to Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987.
As is his way, mcnabb brushed off the snub as easily as he avods would-be tacklers. Instead, he chose to focus on the future.
"I look past that," said McNabb, who led Syracuse to a stunning 66-13 victory over Miami to win the Big East title in the season finale two weeks ago. "Hopefully, it will all turn around in a positive aspect in April (in the NFL draft)."
The disappointment at the snub was subdued but still evident as the team turned its attention this week to Florida and the Orange Bowl.
"He's obviously a great player," coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "He was very, very deserving of being there, no question. That obviously was not anybody in central New York's decision. But I think we understand what goes on. We understand the parameters and the politics that go on around that. "
"We know who he is, he knows who he is," Pasqualoni said. "I think this will all clearly come out in April when the draft comes around. We just feel fortunate he's got one more big game to play and that he's going to have a chance one more time to show the entire nation exactly who Donovan McNabb is."
That comes Jan. 2 against the Gators.
"Everybody saw that he was fifth in the balloting and didn't get an invite," Syracuse offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers said. "I think it would be great vindication for him to go out on a positive note in a BCS game on national TV against a great, great program."
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