Written by Andrea Adelson at ESPN.com
Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson are headed to New York as Heisman Trophy finalists, the top two players in the ACC now vying to be crowned the best player in the entire nation.
Whether you are a Louisville fan or a Clemson fan, or just a college football fan, it is worth taking a step back to truly appreciate this moment.
Only once before has the ACC had two finalists in New York in the same year: In 2013, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston won, while Boston College running back Andre Williams finished fourth.
Never before has the ACC had two players finish 1-2 in Heisman voting.
JUST IN: Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Jabrill Peppers, Deshaun Watson and Dede Westbrook have been named finalists for the Heisman Trophy. pic.twitter.com/PDugqmGCLQ
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) December 6, 2016
So, yes, this is a big moment for the players and their schools. But it is also a big moment for the ACC, giving the league some well-deserved bragging rights after so many lean years when it was difficult to come up with even one worthy Heisman contender, let alone two.
As football programs have gotten better, recruiting has gotten better and coaching hires have gotten better, so, too, have the players in the conference. The successes have not been contained to just one school, either. The recent finalists have represented four programs.
When the season started, though, nobody envisioned it would unfold in quite this way. Not even Jackson, who was entering his first year as the full-time starter. “I really didn’t even think about any awards,” Jackson said over the weekend in Orlando, where he picked up his ACC Player of the Year award.
Watson had the name, reputation, expectations and “Heisman favorite” scrawled next to his name. He was the one chosen to repeat as ACC Player of the Year in preseason polling among media members in July, picking up 164 out of 191 votes. Jackson got two.
But Clemson started off with some closer-than-expected games, and Watson did not put up the dazzling numbers many had come to expect. By Week 3, he admitted he needed to have more fun on the field and apologized for bringing negative energy to the team. Jackson, meanwhile, captivated the country with one touchdown binge after another and one highlight reel play after another – from the ‘Lamar Leap’ to making Florida State look like Ferris State in a 63-20 win.
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