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College football: Lynch officially a Heisman hopeful

Jordan Lynch can’t wait to head to New York.

The Northern Illinois senior quarterback was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy on Monday. He was so excited that he tweeted he was a finalist about 5 minutes before the official announcement was made on ESPN by 1996 winner Danny Wuerffel.

“NYC here I come!! Thanks to the coaches teammates and media relation couldn’t of did it with out them!” he posted.

Lynch then deleted the tweet and re-sent a different version later.

He will join Auburn running back Tre Mason, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Boston College running back Andre Williams.

It is the first time since 1994 that more than five finalists have been chosen to attend the Heisman’s presentation ceremony, which will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square. 

“It’s a great honor and a great accomplishment, but I couldn’t do it without my coaches, teammates, family and the support staff,” Lynch said. “It’s hard [to be selected from a nonautomatic-qualifier school]. One of the biggest things is you have to win games, have a winning team and your stats have to separate you from the bigger schools. I knew if I had a chance to get there, it would be a good individual season, and I knew it would take a great year as a team for us.”

Lynch led the Huskies to a 12-1 record this season and a berth in the Poinsettia Bowl. He broke his single-season record for rushing yards by an FBS quarterback with 1,881 yards and has accounted for a school-record 46 touchdowns this season.

Lynch finished seventh in the voting last year, after leading the Huskies to their first Bowl Championship Series bowl game in program history where they lost to Florida State, 31-10, in the Orange Bowl.

“This is a great honor for him and it recognizes the great career he has had,” NIU coach Rod Carey said in a news release. “It is so well-deserved that he gets to go to New York. I’m also very happy for NIU, that along with Jordan’s accomplishments, our team and our university will be put on center stage in New York.”

Lynch becomes the first player in NIU history to be named a finalist for the Heisman. The Huskies have had standout players in the past, but none of them made it to New York. Running back LeShon Johnson finished sixth in 1993 after leading the nation in rushing and Michael Turner failed to crack the top 10 during NIU’s 10-2 season in 2003.

Lynch’s Heisman campaign began this summer when NIU made “Lynch for 6” lunchboxes as a way to stir up publicity for its senior quarterback. In addition to Lynch’s staggering numbers, he also benefitted from national TV exposure over the past 4 weeks of the season, something that Johnson and Turner didn’t have when they played.

NIU played in primetime midweek slots on ESPN2 for the last three regular season games against Ball State, Toledo and Western Michigan and during the MAC Championship against Bowling Green.

The last two players from the MAC to be named a finalist for the Heisman were Marshall wide receiver Randy Moss in 1997 and Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington in 1999. Moss finished fourth behind Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf and Charles Woodson while Pennington was fifth, placing behind Ron Dayne, Joe Hamilton, Drew Brees and Michael Vick.

“It’s awesome for the MAC conference, it’s awesome for Northern Illinois,” Lynch said. “It just puts us on the map. It gets us more exposure. It’ll help our recruiting, it helps with everything. I wouldn’t be here wihtout my coaches and my teammates and my family.”

After the turn of the century, the MAC has placed several players in the top 10 of the voting, but none were invited to New York for the final ceremony. Marshall’s Byron Leftwich finished sixth in 2002 while Miami (Ohio) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger placed ninth in 2003. Ball State quarterback Nate Davis was eighth in 2008.

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