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Hand Him The Heisman II: Is Shedeur Sanders a Legitimate Candidate?

It may have been a "Dad Moment," but it opened the door for Shedeur Sanders in regards for his Heisman candidacy.

Steve McNair is an HBCU legend. Notice that I said it is and not was. Why? His records and exploits on the football field continue to live on in HBCU football folklore.

McNair was a fantastic player, and his Heisman hopes paled in comparison to the other candidates from Power 5 programs. Although, he received a significant boost from the 1994 Sports Illustrated's "Hand Him the Heisman" article by S.L. Price. From that point, things favorably changed for McNair.

Steve McNair - SI Cover

"McNair's megaperformances this season have drawn the newspaper reporters and TV crews and NFL scouts to tiny Lorman, Miss., like never before; they have made the hustlers racing to the state's river-boat casinos slow down and point at the Alcorn exit; and they've confirmed that here, rising out of a school with an enrollment of 3,300, is an increasingly viable contender for the Heisman Trophy. No school this size and no black college has produced a Heisman winner, but here is one fact that changes everything: Steve McNair is the best college quarterback in the nation."  S.L. Price

The former Alcorn Braves player was the first-ever HBCU football player invited to New York City's Downtown Athletic Club to sit at the Heisman Trophy Award ceremony. It's an honor that notable HBCU legends such as Doug Williams, Walter Payton, and Jerry Rice did not receive after their stellar performances at HBCUs.

McNair didn't win, but the Heisman voters placed him in the top ten vote-getters.

After a 28-year hiatus, there would be another outstanding HBCU quarterback to grace a Sports Illustrated cover. This time he did so with his Pro Football Hall of Fame father and coach Deion Sanders, and his friend and freshman phenom Travis Hunter who would join Shedeur Sanders for the publication's featured article.

Hand Him the Heisman

A few months later - yesterday, to be exact. Shedeur's father, Coach Prime, told sportswriters that his son belongs in the Heisman candidacy watch and discussion.

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"And our quarterback [Shedeur Sanders] should be mentioned upon the Heisman race. That's up for you guys." Deion Sanders said to the media at the SWAC Coaches virtual press conference. "And I want you guys to push those pens, push those computers, and do what you can because you put his numbers up next to the guys in power fives. He's doing as much more than they're doing right now. So when they start talking about Heisman [candidates], which I saw before the previous game, I got a little upset that they mentioned us, period. They didn't mention what Shedeur is doing. Forget that he's my son, and his last name is Sanders. Any other man doing what he's doing and accomplishing what he's accomplishing this far is early on deserves the recognition. That's all. Thank you for allowing me to have a 'Dad Moment.'  Now let's get to business."

Put aside the Sanders "Dad Moment." Does Deion Sanders make a credible claim? The 2021 Jerry Rice Award winner is a sophomore and has improved his decision-making and passing accuracy.

Deion Sanders - Dad Moment

FCS analyst Stan Becton ranks Sanders as the 2nd-best FCS quarterback in the nation behind Fordham's Tim DeMorat. Sanders currently leads DeMorat in completion percentage and has only one interception on the season but trails the Rams signal-caller in touchdowns thrown and passing efficiency.

2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young [Alabama] has 1,029 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and an 84.4 passer rating. Ohio State's CJ Stroud has 1,222 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a 207.5 rating.

Sanders compares better than the FBS leading Heisman candidates with 1,394 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a 174.3 rating.

He trails only Stroud with 2 fewer touchdowns and 33.2 points off his quarterback rating.

The race for the Heisman is constantly in flux with the ebb and flow of weekly college football games. Seven more weeks remain this season before crowning anyone. In reality, it's fair to say that even in his "Dad Moment," Deion Sanders may be correct. Shedeur deserves to be in the Heisman discussion. Naysayers will point to the level of competition - but BYU's Ty Detmer won it once. That's enough for me to change the voters' narrative.

Is it time to "Hand him the Heisman?" Not yet. Will they vote for Sanders in December?

We shall see.