Northern Illinois’ star quarterback will find out Saturday in New York if he’s the Heisman Trophy winner.
Lynch was one of six finalists invited Monday to the ceremony along with overwhelming favorite Jameis Winston of Florida State and last year’s winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
“I don’t think it will all sink in until I actually give it time to sink in and really look back,” Lynch said. “I don’t think that will happen until after this season and after the last game.”
Lynch led No. 24 Northern Illinois (12-1) to within a victory of a second straight BCS berth after making the Orange Bowl last season.
That possibility got doused with a 20-point loss to Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference championship game, but the big prize still is out there for a senior who set the major college record for yards rushing by a quarterback.
He found out around 4:45 p.m. Central on Monday that he was a finalist from coach Rod Carey, who asked if he felt like hanging out in New York. Lynch tweeted the news a few minutes before 1996 winner Danny Wuerffel made the announcement. By then, he had already contacted his mother, Sheila — or at least made an attempt.
The problem was her phone was dead. She was working at a new job, and Lynch didn’t have her office number. His father, Jim, wasn’t answering, either.
“So I call my house phone and try and give everyone the news and I’m still trying my mom — still no pick-up,” he said. “She finds out by a family friend or something like that, so it wasn’t me to give her the news.”
There’s been plenty of good news for the Huskies with Lynch leading the way the past two years. Carey knew they were in good hands after a particularly poor practice before last season.
“He pulled up the whole offense when coach (Dave) Doeren was done talking to the whole team,” said Carey, who rose from line coach at the start of the season to offensive coordinator and head coach before the Orange Bowl. “He got after everybody and didn’t get after them in a way of yelling and screaming. It was an, ‘I’m embarrassed. We have too many seniors we’re playing for.’ It’s one of those times as a coach it sends chills down your spine because you know you have something here that’s pretty special.”
Lynch finished seventh in the Heisman voting last year in his first season as a starter while the Huskies became the first MAC team to land in a BCS game. But with a chance to crash the party again, the Huskies came up short.
They have a date with Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego after being knocked out of the BCS running with that loss to Bowling Green last week, a game in which Lynch ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 219 yards and a score. He also had two interceptions, including one in the fourth quarter that led to a TD. But despite the loss, there’s no denying what Lynch has accomplished.
He’s completed just over 63 percent of his passes this season while breaking his own rushing record for a major college quarterback with 1,881 yards. He ranks fourth in total offense (351 yards per game) and became only the fifth player in NCAA history with at least 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdowns in a season.
Is it enough to beat out Winston and Manziel, not to mention fellow finalists AJ McCarron of Alabama, Auburn’s Tre Mason and Boston College’s Andre Williams?
No MAC player has won the Heisman and the only others to be invited to the ceremony were Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington and wide receiver Randy Moss.
“I’m not going there to come in last place or second place,” Lynch said. “I’m going there to win.”
Win or lose, it’ll be a memorable trip.
He’ll be visiting New York for the first time — “The Big Apple. That’s what they call it, right?” Lynch said. He’s looking forward to meeting the other candidates and past winners, such as Bo Jackson. And he’s happy to carry the torch for the mid-majors, for the players who were passed over or overlooked by the big boys — just like him.
Purdue and Illinois invited him to camps, but Lynch said, “I’m sure every kid gets asked to come down to camp.”
Few get an invitation like this.