SideLines: Maybe Heisman chances are all in the name

“I may have just talked to the best college football player in the country.”

I wrote that 10 years ago after attending Northern Illinois University’s football media day. I was talking about a big running back named Michael “The Burner” Turner.

Turner, then a senior, was coming off a remarkable season in which he finished second in the nation in rushing with 1,915 yards. Hopes were high that he might have a shot at winning the Heisman Trophy, something no NIU player has ever done.

Unfortunately, opposing defenses heard the same rumors. With lines stacked against him, Turner wasn’t quite as spectacular. He rushed for 1,648 yards, which is still great, but not quite enough to claim the coveted prize. Nevertheless, Turner left NIU with a number of school records that will probably stand for a very long time. Drafted by San Diego in the fifth round, Turner eventually found his footing with the Atlanta Falcons, compiling three 1,000-yard seasons and twice earning all-pro honors.

Last week, I went to media day again, and again, I may have talked to the best college football player in the country. This time it’s Jordan Lynch, whose stats are even more impressive than Turner’s.

Unlike Turner, Lynch is a quarterback. Justified or not, the quarterback usually gets the most credit for how well his team does. “We’ve set the bar high,” Lynch told me. “After winning back-to-back MAC titles, we’ll have a target on our backs this year, but we did last year, too.”

When I asked one lineman how the Huskies could possibly top last year, he blurted out, without even looking up: “Win the Orange Bowl.”

That would make Lynch’s Heisman chances even better.

Now, I’m not going to go into all of Lynch’s stats or the amazing season he had in 2012. Most people are already aware of it, and there simply isn’t enough space here to hold it all.

But more than touchdowns or records or championship banners, what I think Lynch needs for serious Heisman consideration is a colorful nickname. He needs something like “Broadway Joe” Namath or Walter “Sweetness” Payton or “Mean” Joe Greene. Even Turner had one. To show off his catchy nickname, miniature bottles of hot sauce labeled “Turner the Burner” were passed out at the 2003 Media Day. (Hoping it would be a collector’s item if Turner won the Heisman, I kept mine; maybe it still will be if he gets elected to the hall of fame.) This year, there were lunch bags and notebooks bearing Lynch’s name and face, but no nickname.

To help No. 6 out, I’ve been kicking around some ideas: Jordan “The Cinch” Lynch or “Lord” Jordan or “King” Jordan. I kind of like Jordan “What More Can He Do” Lynch. The “Barbed Arrow” also has some merit. Closer to the holidays, we could start calling him “Lynch the Grinch,” since he’ll be stealing all the goodies from his MAC opponents.

While we’re at it, maybe his offensive line needs a moniker too, like “the Lynch Mob” or “the Gang of Jordan.” The receivers could be “Jordan’s Raiders” or “the Jordan Tribe.” I know those don’t rhyme, but they still seem appropriate.

Whatever you call him, this should be one exciting season at Huskie Stadium. If you haven’t already, you might want to get your tickets now. I have a hunch that years from now NIU fans are going to look back on 2013 and say, “I was there the day ‘the Huskie King’ threw for 70 touchdowns against Akron and ran for 20 more.”

An exaggeration? We’ll see.

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