USC Produces Second Heisman Winner In 3 Years

Dec. 13, 2004

AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Matt Leinart owns a Heisman Trophy and a national title -and he's got a shot at another championship coming up in less than a month.

The Southern California quarterback is likely to be a high first-round NFLdraft choice in April if he decides to skip his senior season.

It would seem as though Leinart must be a lock to go pro, right? No so fast:He's been saying since last year he wants to use all of his collegeeligibility. And moments after clutching the Heisman, he hadn't changed histune.

'That's a question I get asked a lot,' the fourth-year junior saidSaturday night after becoming the Trojans' sixth Heisman winner. 'But I'msticking to my word that I still intend to return for my fifth year.

'I'm aware of the opportunity; we'll see what happens.'

Leinart won what was thought to be a close race most of the season ratherhandily. The 6-foot-5 left-hander received 1,325 points and won all but one ofthe six voting regions. He finished third in the Southwest behind Oklahomateammates Adrian Peterson and Jason White.

The close race was for second, where Peterson edged White 997-957. White,last year's winner, was trying to join Ohio State's Archie Griffin as the onlytwo-time winners of college football's biggest individual prize.

'They're both No. 1 in my eyes,' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

Leinart and the top-ranked Trojans will face White, Peterson and the Soonersin the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4 in the first matchup of players with Heismantrophies.

White said Griffin, who won the Heisman in 1974-75, tracked him down afterthe presentation ceremony.

'He said ... 'Wish you could have joined me,'' White said.

'I think he might have a guy coming up who might join him,' White added,referring to Peterson.

The 210-pound tailback set a new Heisman standard for freshmen: He was thefirst to finish higher than third in the voting. Peterson's point total wasalso a freshman record, besting Georgia tailback Herschel Walker's 683 in 1980.

Peterson's freshman season will go down as one of the best in collegefootball history. He has rushed for 1,843 yards and 15 touchdowns with afreshman-record 11 100-yard games. He's only 20 yards from breaking the NCAA'sseason rushing record for freshmen, set by Wisconsin's Ron Dayne in 1996.

Utah quarterback Alex Smith was fourth, and USC tailback Reggie Bush wasfifth.

Smith is a junior, and Bush is a sophomore, so it's possible four of thefive Heisman finalists could be playing college football next season. Leinartwill undoubtedly enter next season as a Heisman favorite if he's back, butPeterson and Bush will also have plenty of momentum.

Bush has scored 15 touchdowns and provided some of the most dazzling playsof the season as a do-it-all tailback for USC.

Leinart became USC's second Heisman winner in three years; Carson Palmer wonit in 2002 and now plays quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Trojanshad four Heisman-winning tailbacks from 1965-81 - starting with Mike Garrett,now the Trojans' athletic director, followed by O.J. Simpson in '68, CharlesWhite in '79 and Marcus Allen.

'I told (Bush), 'You'll be standing up there next season,' and he said, 'Iknow,'' Garrett said.

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