College football's awards week a harried-but-enjoyable grind

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Those who oppose a college football playoff often mention the havoc such a postseason would wreak on players during final exam weeks. Those who give out college football's most prestigious awards apparently have no such concerns.

Wednesday night, Stanford tailback Toby Gerhart explained his academic week. "It's been so hectic," said Gerhart, who is taking 21 credits this term. "I had two finals Monday. I had one Tuesday. I'm actually in the middle of doing one tonight. I have to submit it by midnight tonight. And I have to take one tomorrow morning."

Gerhart took an engineering final Wednesday night. He took an archaeology test Thursday morning. Thursday night, he won the Doak Walker Award. Friday, he boarded a commercial flight from Orlando to New York, where he could win the Heisman.

Welcome to the harried-but-enjoyable grind of college football's awards week, where the nation's best jet from one site to another while trying to juggle their academic duties and -- in the case of the Alabama and Texas players who will meet in the BCS title game Jan. 7 -- stay focused on the biggest game of their lives.

It was Sunday by the time the Longhorns arrived back in Austin following their 13-12 win against Nebraska in the Big 12 title game in Arlington, Texas. On Monday, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was in New York for the National Football Foundation's scholar-athlete dinner on Tuesday night. Wednesday, he flew to Orlando for an interview session leading up to the Home Depot Football Awards Show on ESPN. Thursday, McCoy and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow -- who also made the first of two trips to New York earlier this week -- filmed a series of sketches for use during the ESPN broadcast. Thursday night, McCoy picked up the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell Awards. Friday, McCoy flew from Orlando to Baltimore to pick up the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Saturday, he will head to New York for the Heisman ceremony.

Much to McCoy's chagrin, not a single one of his four flights this week took off later than 9 a.m. Luckily for McCoy, he doesn't have the same academic responsibilities as Gerhart. "I'm graduated. I'm done with school," McCoy said. "The last time on this trip, I was still doing homework. I feel good about that."

The last time Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and McCoy were in such close proximity, Suh was tossing McCoy to the Cowboys Stadium turf as time expired -- or so Suh thought -- in the Big 12 title game. After that crushing defeat, Suh has done nothing but win. He went to Charlotte, N.C., on Monday to collect the Bronko Nagurski Award, then to Houston on Wednesday to collect the Lombardi Award. After winning the Lombardi, Suh spent some of Wednesday night shooting pool with TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Thursday, after a quick workout, Suh caught a plane to Orlando, where he won the Bednarik Award and the Outland Trophy. Friday, he was off to New York for Saturday's Heisman ceremony.

"It's been a whirlwind," Suh said Thursday night. "Tireless nights. No sleep."

Fortunately for Suh, this is a dead week at Nebraska. Back in Lincoln, students are studying for next week's exams. Suh will do the same in New York. Before he walked the red carpet at Thursday's awards show, Suh spoke to his academic advisor, who promised to e-mail study materials Suh could read when he arrived in the Big Apple.

McCoy, meanwhile, was expecting some study materials of his own. He said Wednesday that he had video of Alabama en route to him. Of course, if he really wanted to know about Alabama's defense, he could have asked Crimson Tide nose tackle Terrence Cody or head coach Nick Saban, who sat just a few feet from McCoy during Thursday's ceremony.

McCoy, a veteran of the awards show grind, knows he'll be wiped out by the time he makes it back to Austin, but he wouldn't trade a single moment. "Just have fun," he said; "Enjoy it. And know that when you get back, there's a lot of work to do. There's another game. That's always in the back of your mind."