December 14, 2009
Hey, football fans, might as well go ahead and get used to this face:
The nature of college football guarantees that all stars are relatively fleeting, and in the age of early exits, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy's wholesome reign as the Faces of the Sport -- the truly household names even among moms and other non-sports fans, guaranteed to grace every magazine cover and reach over-saturation in every medium -- was fairly long and robust. Tebow's status as inescapable college football celebrity, in fact, has probably never been matched and may not be again for years to come; the likes of TMZ and GQ don't tend to hang around the campus set as a rule.
But just as the banner to fell to the resident clean-cut, All-American quarterbacks from their overhyped predecessors, Troy Smith and Brady Quinn, who in turn inherited it from Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Vince Young, who inherited it from Carson Palmer and so on, the big spotlight must move on. In this case, it seems to have settled squarely on Mark Ingram, whose unguarded Heisman speech Saturday night served as the sophomore's formal "behind the helmet" introduction to most football fans, and opened up the door to the rest of America: In addition to Good Morning America, Ingram was set to appear to tonight with David Letterman (although he was apparently bumped from the show -- maybe after the BCS Championship game in Pasadena, which has often sent the star of the game to the Tonight Show). Prior to the Heisman, Ingram had already landed on the covers of Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News. With the other Heisman finalists moving on, barring a complete meltdown against Texas in Pasadena, the offseason hype machine is Ingram's oyster. (Or petting zoo, as it were.)
The only other name poised to join him in that stratosphere in 2010, pending his own performance in the Rose Bowl, is Terrelle Pryor -- if he has a breakout game in an Ohio State win over Oregon, the Buckeyes will be at the forefront of next falls' national championship chatter, whereby Pryor will reassume his status as "The Next Vince Young" entering his crucial junior season. If college football fans thought Pryor was overexposed already, they'd better brace themselves if he comes through on New Year's Day, in which case everyone with a few minutes of air time or a couple pages to fill with a profile will want a piece of the phenom as he comes into his own.