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Heisman Winner Weinke Takes N.Y.

December 11, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ His family celebrated in St. Paul, Minn., his teammates cheered in Tallahassee, Fla., and Chris Weinke simply took Manhattan after winning the Heisman Trophy.

``Yes, I had a great night,″ Weinke said Sunday. ``After winning the Heisman, how can it be anything but great?″

On Sunday, his parents arrived in town and will accompany their 28-year-old son to the Heisman Trophy banquet on Monday night.

``I’m honored beyond words,″ Weinke said Saturday night after winning college football’s top individual prize by 76 points over Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel. He said he was a nervous wreck in the moments leading to the announcement of the winner, and afterward said ``it may take a while before this all sinks in.″

It sure caused a ruckus at brother Derek’s house, and at the Seminoles annual awards banquet on Saturday night.

``It was pretty quiet when they were going to make the announcement,″ Ron Weinke, Chris’ father, said. ``As soon as they started saying, `Chris ... ′ the place went absolutely crazy.″

Same thing at the Leon County Civic Center, only there was a crowd of 2,000 at the awards banquet as opposed to the party of 10 at Weinke’s brother’s house.

``There were simultaneous screams and applause as soon as everyone heard `Chris,″ Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. ``Nobody heard `Weinke.‴

Weinke has his first big win over Heupel, but the two will go at each other again in the Orange Bowl, where the stakes involve a national championship.

Weinke will lead the third-ranked Seminoles (11-1) against the top-ranked Sooners (12-0) on Jan. 3 hoping to finish his career with two consecutive national titles. Heupel is looking to bring Oklahoma its first title since 1985.

``It’s exciting,″ Weinke said. ``Regardless of who wins the Heisman, we’re going to get a head-to-head matchup and whoever doesn’t win is probably going to want to go out there and prove he deserved to win.″

That would be Heupel, who told Sooners fans not to be discouraged by his runner-up finish.

``I would tell them to put a smile on their face and get ready for a trip to Miami,″ Heupel said.

Weinke, who led the nation with a school-record 4,167 yards passing and threw 33 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, totaled 1,628 points in the Heisman balloting _ 369 first-place votes, 216 for second place and 89 for third.

Heupel, who threw for 3,392 yards and 20 TDs, collected 1,552 points _ 286 first-place votes, 290 for second and 114 for third.

Of the 922 eligible Heisman voters, only 796, or 86.3 percent, cast ballots. Weinke was left off 122 ballots, while Heupel was not among the top three choices on 106 ballots.

Purdue quarterback Drew Brees was a distant third with 619 points; and TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson was fourth with 566 points.

The Orange Bowl matchup between Weinke and Heupel will be just the second time the Heisman winner and runner-up will play against each in a postseason game with national title implications.

The 1975 Rose Bowl matched ’74 Heisman winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State against runner-up Anthony Davis of Southern California. The Trojans won 18-17 and claimed a share of the ’74 national title _ Oklahoma was the AP media poll champion; USC won the coaches poll.

In the only other bowl meeting between the top two Heisman finishers, winner George Rogers of South Carolina went against Hugh Green of Pittsburgh, with the Panthers winning 37-9.

Weinke is hoping the Heisman winner’s team prevails this time.

``They are a good football team, and whether this will be motivation for them I don’t know, Weinke said of the Sooners. ``Nobody has found a way to beat them yet, but I’m sure we’ll give it our best shot.″

In the seventh-closest voting in Heisman history, Weinke overcame an age issue that had some voters leave his name off the ballot claiming he had an unfair advantage over his younger rivals.

``Everything that’s happened is because of the experience I’ve gained, not the age I attained,″ said Weinke, who played minor league baseball for six years before beginning his college football career. ``When I went back to football at Florida State, I was no better a quarterback at 24 than I was at 18.″

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