VIEWS: Even with third-place finish, Lynch and NIU win

Published: Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 10:31 p.m.CDT • Updated: Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 10:38 p.m.CDT

NEW YORK – A guy from Northern Illinois was just honored as one of the best players in college football.

Just sit back and really think about it.

For those who followed the program during the dark days of the 1990s, how could you even have imagined a Huskie sitting at a ceremony with some of the best players in college football?

NIU was one of the worst, if not THE worst, program in the nation at one point. Now, it's almost like Huskies fans are downright spoiled.

Four consecutive trips to the MAC Championship. A BCS bowl appearance, NIU will finish in the Top 25 for the second consecutive year with a win over Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Huskies' quarterback finished in third place in Heisman balloting.

After the presentation, Lynch said he was disappointed to not win the trophy, which is understandable. He also said it was an honor just to be invited to New York. Even though he finished in third place, Lynch and the Huskies won Saturday night.

Prior to Saturday night's ceremony, the six Heisman finalists took questions from the media – large pennants with each of their school's logos draped in front of them. The NIU logo by Lynch sort of seemed out of place compared with legendary programs such as Alabama and Florida State.

At the same time, it shows how far the program has come.

It was obvious Lynch wasn't going to win the Heisman Saturday. The winner, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, was the heavy favorite coming in.

But a guy from NIU, a player from a non-AQ conference, a player from the MAC, was in New York. It's great for Lynch, great for the Huskies and great for the Huskie fans, especially the ones who witnessed so many of the down years.

Prior to the ceremony, Lynch's father, Jim, put it in perspective. Jim and Lynch's mother, Sheila, certainly enjoyed their time in the Big Apple. Lynch joked that his dad was taking pictures of everything.

"This is a big win for Jordan," Jim Lynch said. "It's a big win for Northern Illinois. It's a big win for the MAC conference."

When NIU started Lynch's campaign this summer, I felt him being in Manhattan this weekend would have been a surprise, despite what he accomplished last year. Non-AQ players have to do a ton to earn the trip.

Him being one of six finalists says a lot about what he did this season, especially with NIU losing the MAC title game. He had the numbers, he had the wins. Oh yeah, those midweek games some people complain about certainly helped his chances.

Lynch didn't win the Heisman tonight. But don't kid yourself, him being honored in New York was a victory in itself.

• Steve Nitz is the Daily Chronicle's NIU beat writer. He can be reached via e-mail at snitz@shawmedia.com and follow him on Twitter @SNitz_DDC.

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