Bryce Young said he didn’t perform to prove his doubters wrong. He performed to prove to himself all he could do.
Saturday night in New York, he did what no other Alabama quarterback – and only three other Tide players – have done. The sophomore quarterback became the first Crimson Tide signal-caller to earn the Heisman Trophy.
“I’ve always been someone who’s been labeled as not the prototype,” Young said in his acceptance speech. “Being an African American quarterback and being quote unquote undersized and not being that prototype, I’ve always been ruled out and counted out. People at times have told me that I wasn’t gonna be able to make it.
“For me, it’s always been about not really proving them wrong but proving to myself what I can accomplish. I always push myself to work the hardest and I try my best to do all I can to maximize all I can do.”
He did it in historic fashion, collecting 684 first-place votes and 2,311 overall. His first-place vote tally ranked 10th all time. Additionally, he garnered 83 percent of the total possible points, seventh most all time.
A distant second to Young was Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson with 78 first-place votes and 954 total points. Quarterback Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh was third with 28 first-place votes and 631 total points and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was fourth with 12 first-place votes and 399 total points.
Not present but placing fifth was Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. with 31 first-place votes and 325 total points. That put two defensive players in the Heisman top five for the first time since 1962.
Young follows Tide running backs Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015) and wide receiver DeVonta Smith (2020) as winners of the coveted award. Smith is now a receiver with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and teammate to former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was a Heisman runner-up.
Smith had a recorded message for his former roommate.
“From the day you stepped foot on campus, we knew you were different,” Smith said. “Sure, people had their doubts. Too small. Too skinny. They said the same thing about me. Well, here you are. You’re calm. When the world panics, you just smile. When your back’s against the wall, you fight your way out.
“I remember 2020,” Smith continued. “You waited your turn. You developed. You bought into the process. Some people might have forgotten your first touchdown pass at Alabama. Little did they know that pass was from one Heisman winner to another.”
Young was an overwhelming favorite to take the bronze statue. He has thrown for 4,322 yards with 43 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
While leading a Crimson Tide that fell from atop the rankings, Young turned in his best moments to keep Alabama in contention for a possible national championship, its 18th overall and second in as many seasons.
Young led the Tide on a 97-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes of regulation against rival Auburn on Nov. 27 to force the first of four overtimes.
The sophomore then dismantled No. 1 Georgia and its vaunted No. 1 defense in the SEC Championship game, setting an SEC Championship Game record with 421 passing yards.
Young made his high school alma mater Mater Dei in California the first to have three Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks. He follows Matt Leinart and John Huarte.
Julie Young, the winner’s mother, said the honor for her son is “amazing … phenomenal.”
“It’s all God,” she said. “It’s just, it’s so wonderful. All the hard work that all of us as a family have put in. This is just a dream.”
Craig Young was asked how he kept his son motivated.
“One, it’s easy when you’re really good, and so that helps a lot,” he said as the audience laughed. “But also … it’s really about belief in yourself and it’s about belief in your preparation and your abilities, and not allowing people to write your story and to dictate your life to you and taking control of your destiny, and just being the best person you can be. And I think he personifies that.”
Young’s sophomore season continues at 2:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve as he leads the Crimson Tide (12-1) against undefeated Cincinnati (13-0) in a College Football Playoff semifinal in Arlington, Texas, at the Cotton Bowl on ESPN.