Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon got the invitation he has been waiting for since the beginning of the season: a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday. The redshirt junior running back has widely been regarded the best tailback in the country, putting together, arguably, one of the most impressive résumés in the past decade at the position. On Monday, he was announced as one of three finalists, joining Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Gordon has rushed for 2,336 yards on the season and scored 29 touchdowns, both leading the nation for running backs. Gordon is averaging 7.6 yards per carry, an astounding feat for a running back who has carried the ball over 300 times this season. Along the way, Gordon briefly held the NCAA record for most rushing yards in a single game when he rushed for 408 yards in three quarters against Nebraska. That record was broken a week later by Oklahoma Sooner freshman running back Samaje Perine, who ran for 427 yards.
"It's been a goal of mine and it just shows what type of year I had and how hard I worked," Gordon said Monday in Madison. "I came back to help my team and do some things to become a better player, as well, and I think this is showing that."
Gordon has only been held to under 100 yards rushing in two games this season, against Western Illinois and in the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State. He has rushed for 200 or more yards five times this season. Against Bowling Green, Gordon eclipsed his season-high per-carry average of 19.5 yards while amassing 153 yards on 13 carries and scored a season high-five touchdowns. Gordon needs 293 yards in the Outback Bowl against Auburn to break the NCAA single season rushing record held by Barry Sanders.
"This is a good feeling," Gordon said. "It just goes to show how much hard work you put in in the offseason. It feels good. It'll probably hit me when I get down to New York."
A running back has not won the Heisman Trophy since 2009 when Mark Ingram of Alabama won the award. In the past 13 years, Ingram and Reggie Bush (who since vacated his award) were the only tailbacks to win the award. Gordon will face stiff competition in the form of Mariota, who is widely considered to be the favorite . Most oddsmakers in Las Vegas have taken the line for Heisman voting off the boards after Wisconsin’s performance last weekend all but securing the award for the Oregon quarterback.
If Gordon were to win, he would be the third winner in school history, joining Ron Dayne and Alan Ameche. Montee Ball was the last to be invited to the presentation in 2011 when he tied the NCAA career touchdown record with 77 throughout his time as a Badger. Gordon is the fourth invitee for Wisconsin.
"Especially Montee, someone I really looked up to my freshman year coming in," Gordon said when asked about the pride he takes as being the latest Wisconsin Heisman finalist. "Seeing him going through this process and being a Heisman finalist and, as a freshman, thinking, ‘How would it feel to be in his shoes?' and now I'm actually in them. It's a good feeling."
The Heisman Trophy presentation will take place on Saturday, 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.