Jordan Lynch can't wait to head to New York.
The Northern Illinois senior quarterback was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy award Monday. He will join Auburn running back Tre Mason, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Boston College running back Andre Williams.
It is the first time since 1994 that more than five finalists have been chosen to attend the Heisman's presentation ceremony, which will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square.
“It’s a great honor and a great accomplishment, but I couldn’t do it without my coaches, teammates, family and the support staff,” Lynch said. “It’s hard [to be selected from a nonautomatic-qualifier school]. One of the biggest things is you have to win games, have a winning team and your stats have to separate you from the bigger schools. I knew if I had a chance to get there, it would be a good individual season, and I knew it would take a great year as a team for us."
Lynch led the Huskies to a 12-1 record this season and a berth in the Poinsettia Bowl. He broke his single-season record for rushing yards by an FBS quarterback with 1,881 yards and has accounted for a school-record 46 touchdowns this season.
Lynch finished seventh in the voting last year after leading the Huskies to their first Bowl Championship Series bowl game in program history where they lost to Florida State, 31-10, in the Orange Bowl.
“This is a great honor for him and it recognizes the great career he has had," NIU coach Rod Carey said in a news release. "It is so well-deserved that he gets to go to New York. I’m also very happy for NIU, that along with Jordan’s accomplishments, our team and our university will be put on center stage in New York."
Lynch becomes the first player in NIU history to be named a finalist for the Heisman. The Huskies have had standout players in the past, but none of them made it to New York. Running back LeShon Johnson finished sixth in 1993 despite leading the nation in rushing and Michael Turner failed to crack the top 10 during NIU's 10-2 season in 2003.
His Heisman campaign started this summer when NIU made "Lynch for 6" lunchboxes as a way to stir up publicity for its senior quarterback. In addition to Lynch's staggering numbers, he also benefitted from national TV exposure over the last four weeks of the season, something that Johnson and Turner didn't have when they played.
NIU played in primetime midweek slots on ESPN2 for the last three regular season games against Ball State, Toledo and Western Michigan and during the MAC Championship against Bowling Green.
The last two players from the MAC to be named a finalist for the Heisman were Marshall wide receiver Randy Moss in 1997 and Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington in 1999. Moss finished fourth behind Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf and Charles Woodson while Pennington was fifth, placing behind Ron Dayne, Joe Hamilton, Drew Brees and Michael Vick.
"It's awesome for the MAC conference, it's awesome for Northern Illinois," Lynch said. "It just puts us on the map. It gets us more exposure. It'll help our recruiting, it helps with everything. I wouldn't be here wihtout my coaches and my teammates and my family."
After the turn of the century, the MAC has placed several players in the top 10 of the voting, but none were invited to New York for the final ceremony. Marshall's Byron Leftwich finished sixth in 2002 while Miami (Ohio) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger placed ninth in 2003. Ball State quarterback Nate Davis was eighth in 2008.
Other recent mid-major players have had a turn at the Heisman ceremony, including Hawaii's Colt Brennan, who finished third in 2008, the highest finish for a non-AQ player in the Bowl Championship Series era, and Boise State's Kellen Moore, who finished fourth in 2010. The last player from a mid-major program to win the Heisman Trophy was BYU QB Ty Detmer in 1990.
Lynch said he's never been to New York, but will be sure to enjoy his time there this weekend.
"Really hasn't sunk in yet," Lynch said. "I'm just happy to be there, spend it with my family, see all the candidates and the previous Heisman winners."
HEISMAN HISTORY AND PROCESS
The Heisman Memorial Trophy is named in honor of long-time college football coach John W. Heisman, who was also the athletic director of the New York Downtown Athletic Club.
The trophy is 13.5 inches tall, weighs 45 lbs, and is cast in bronze while the model for the trophy was Ed Smith, a player for New York University in 1934. The award has been given out every year since 1935.
The award "recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."
The Heisman Trophy is given out based on points tabulated from 928 ballots. Of those 928 ballots, 870 are media members equally split from six regions (Far West, Mid Atlantic, Mid West, North East, South, South West) of the country. Every former Heisman winner still living also has a vote, totaling 57, and the final ballot is based on a national online fan vote.
Each voter picks their top 3 choices for the Heisman Trophy in order, with the top selection gaining three points, second selection earning two points and the final selection getting one point.
Total points are then tabulated to declare a winner.