Ty Detmer: Heisman Trophy ‘Becomes A Part Of Your Life’

Nov 14, 2020, 8:29 PM

BYU Miami - 1990 - Ty Detmer...

BYU quarterback Ty Detmer takes down No. 1 Miami in 1990. (BYU Photo/Mark Philbrick)

(BYU Photo/Mark Philbrick)

PROVO, Utah – Thirty years ago BYU quarterback Ty Detmer was awarded the Heisman Trophy for being the most outstanding player in college football. Since then no player from outside a major conference has won the award. There have been finalists like Utah’s Alex Smith in 2004 and a few others, but none were considered serious contenders for the award.

Flash forward to today and BYU is in the running for its second Heisman Trophy winner in school history and in a wild and weird 2020 season Cougars signal-caller, Zach Wilson has a real shot.

The schedule was reworked and admittedly is not as tough as it would have included five Power 5 teams plus a Boise State team that is typically ranked in the top 25. None of that matters as Wilson has shredded through any and all defenses, tied for the national lead with 22 touchdown passes, is extremely efficient throwing the ball, and BYU is in the top-10 with playoff aspirations if the team can win its final games to finish undefeated.

Detmer knows a whole lot about what a Heisman-type season can look like and he joined KSL’s UnRivaled to relive his historic 1990 season.

The first question that was asked was there any expectations or aspirations of winning the Heisman Trophy heading into his junior year?

“It definitely wasn’t a goal. It was something that I think the year before our PR department has sent out ties to all the media across the country with my stats on it and all those things from sophomore year,” Detmer said. “We ended up playing Penn State [in the 1989 Holiday Bowl]. I think a lot of people saw that game and I threw for a lot of yards against that Penn State defense. So that kind of opened the door going into the season for.”

Wilson did not have a Penn State-type game leading into his 2020 season so he was a bit off the radar compared to Detmer but the way 2020 started for Wilson against Navy gave him the short in the arm he needed to get on the national radar.

Greatest Memory Was Upsetting No. 1 Miami

What nearly every Heisman candidate needs is that Heisman moment which will either get that player in the race or solidify their spot as the top spot. One of the most famous examples is former Michigan Wolverine Desmond Howard’s Heisman pose after he returned a punt for a touchdown.

Wilson has had a whole bunch of great games run together and his “Heisman moment” to date could be considered the dismantling of then-No. 21 Boise State, 51-17. He threw for three touchdowns, completed 78.6% of his passes for 360 yards.

That win over the Broncos is likely to be the toughest opponent for Wilson and BYU this year.

Detmer mentioned how the game against No. 1 Miami was a huge opportunity for him and had a huge game in not only getting the win but he also threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns.

“That game was probably my favorite memory. Just because the fans were in the stands, you know, before the game, normally they were trickling in till halftime and in that game, just the hype surrounding it,” Detmer said. “We had a real veteran team that year and felt like we had a chance to win. Probably nobody else did.

“College football’s all about a night like that. I think, most of the time to win the Heisman, you have to have a signature game. I know Johnny Manziel, he beat Alabama and had a big game that really probably won it for him. That Miami game was that for me.”

I Wasn’t Really Getting Heisman Advice

Getting publicity and attention can be great but Heisman hype is another level, even during Detmer’s era. Thirty years ago it was longer phone calls with national media but today it can be more instant by being tagged on social media and be quite annoying.

Handling that pressure is key to keeping priorities straight and it really helped that LaVell Edwards had a quality to him that was not overbearing which helped Detmer go through an incredible year.

“Lavelle was such a calming influence that you weren’t getting a ton of advice other than to say, ‘let’s go win games,'” Detmer Said. “My dad, which is high school coach for a long time, and he would just say, ‘hey, you know, let’s just go play and win games, have fun, and whatever happens, happens.'”

In a way, playing without social media or even the Internet age was great for Detmer because it would have to be really hard to tune that stuff out when it is so easy for anyone to have an opinion about how good or bad of a season you were having.

“Fortunately, it wasn’t like in today’s day and age where you’ve got social media and things change daily or weekly and there are a thousand guys out there with their opinion and blogs,” Detmer said. “It’s nice to play in a little simpler time that way. As the season went on, the weekly media calls would have a few more people on it than normal.”

Winning The Heisman Sticks With You Forever

The Heisman Trophy fraternity has just 84 members and is a very exclusive club which includes being able to have a vote each year. Being able to be called a Heisman winner sticks with you for life. Detmer’s experience was different when he won, he was not in New York City but was in Hawaii to play the Warriors and accepted the award over the phone.

Detmer described when he realized how big of a deal this was when he was at the Heisman banquet to accept the trophy and heard from past winners.

“When I got the trophy at the banquet, Earl Campbell spoke and he looked at me and said, ‘you know, the Heisman Trophy will do more for you than you can ever do for it because it just becomes a part of your life and it’s part of your name,'” Detmer said. “That’s really been something, you know, every time you get announced or speaking at a banquet or anything, that’s a Heisman Trophy. They don’t talk about the NFL, those kinds of things. It’s a Heisman Trophy winner. So it really becomes a part of you and something I’ve really cherished and been proud to be a part of.”

No matter what else a Heisman Trophy winner accomplishes, they will also and forever have that title for being the most outstanding college football player. BYU has Ty Detmer right now as a winner and they could possibly have a second in Zach Wilson

Tune into KSL Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

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Ty Detmer: Heisman Trophy ‘Becomes A Part Of Your Life’