You know who I think of when I watch Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton?
Think long and hard before you laugh. Like Elway, Stanton is a big, strapping, ox-strong right-hander who throws the football a country mile. Stanton isn't afraid to run; in fact, he rather likes it - he likes it so much that Michigan State coach John L. Smith can't bear to watch. Every time Stanton runs with the football, inviting excitement and injury, Smith imagines the Spartans' season flashing before his eyes.
A year ago, Stanton and Michigan State almost knocked off Michigan in Ann Arbor - until a shoulder injury felled Stanton and derailed the Spartans' upset hopes.
Stanton reverses, pivots, spins away, pulling free of pursuers. He can break containment and outrun defenses, earn a couple of first downs with his legs, if need be. He runs so fluidly he should be nicknamed ''Crazy Legs'' Stanton. He's a danger to run at any time, but it's all a ruse, a way to buy more time and create confusion on the other sideline, all so he can fling the ball to a distant receiver, or flip and dink the Spartans downfield.
Try as they might, teams can't stop Stanton, who leads the nation in pass efficiency and has tossed 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions in four games this season. On Saturday, in a rematch against Michigan in East Lansing, Stanton, shoulder healed and confidence at an all-time high, will try to show the country what he can do, which is plenty. He doesn't have to do anything special.
Just be himself.
In actuality, Stanton, a junior from Farmington Hills, Mich., can play himself into an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony if he stands on his head against Michigan. Stanton's Heisman competition could become intimidating if he allows it to consume him.
But he deserves to be mentioned with the best college football players in 2005.
He's good. Real good. How good? Well, his main competition includes Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart, who's vying to become the first back-to-back Heisman winner since Ohio State's Archie Griffin, along with Leinart's teammate, running back/wide receiver/kick returner Reggie Bush. USC is the two-time defending national champion, which carries a lot of influence with Heisman voters. That's why Stanton needs to have a monster game against Michigan on national television. Hanging 61 points on flyweight Illinois last week with Stanton flinging a school-record five touchdown passes is one thing.
And, yes, producing gaudy individual statistics that make you smack your forehead in amazement put Stanton on the Heisman radar.
However, running up the score against Michigan would put Stanton, the Elway look-a-like, in rarified Heisman territory with USC's talented duo and Texas quarterback Vince Young, another superb talent. Young may not dazzle you with his passing mechanics, but all he does is make plays that no other quarterback can, and win.
Two weeks after Michigan, Stanton gets another chance to impress Heisman voters against Ohio State in Columbus. Even at today's prices, it may be time to gas up the Stanton Heisman bandwagon.