Heisman finalists headline college awards show
Dec. 11, 2014
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Alabama and Oregon are the top two seeds in the inaugural College Football Playoff. But first, their star players are up for several major awards.
Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota and Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper are finalists for three of the 10 prizes that will be handed out during Thursday night's College Football Awards Show at Disney.
"It's an opportunity to kind of relax and really reflect a little bit about the season," Mariota said Wednesday. "For the most part it's just taking a couple of days away to get ready for the long haul ... an opportunity to get away and enjoy it."
Alabama and Oregon lead all schools with three and two players nominated, respectively. Mariota, Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) and Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) are each finalists for two awards.
Mariota is considered the front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. Thursday he's a finalist for both the Maxwell Award, given to the player of the year, and the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award.
The past four winners of the O'Brien Award (Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton) each won the Heisman as well.
Mariota said he isn't concerned about the effect that travel and various media obligations could have on his preparations for Oregon's semifinal matchup in the Rose Bowl with defending national champion Florida State on Jan. 1.
"I'll just take it like I have been, not focusing much on the distractions," Mariota said. "If I need a break, I have so many people around me that have been my support system and who have helped me. If I ever need their input, I can take it."
Cooper also said he's staying focused during this short respite away from the football field. Cooper is up for the Biletnikoff Award on Thursday, given to the nation's top receiver. No Alabama player has ever won that trophy.
Then he'll join Mariota in New York as one of three Heisman finalists, along with Gordon.
Cooper couldn't recall watching any of the previous Heisman presentations, and said no one at Alabama has approached him with advice about what to expect.
Cooper, however, said he doesn't take the silence to mean he's on his own this week.
"It's not that. Every one of our coaches is really busy. It's recruiting time, so they're really busy. I feel like they know I can handle it," he said.
Just don't expect any trash talk.
"I'm always just unsure of what's going to happen, so I don't want to jinx myself or anything," he said.
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower