Dec. 12, 2013
Tre Mason gets the red carpet treatment on the red carpet at football awards show in Orland (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
NEW YORK — Tre Mason will wing it to New York this weekend for interviews, a little sightseeing -- and to see if he won the Heisman Trophy.
Five other finalists will also be on hand, including Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who will see the sights with Mason but who will be on the other side of the field when Auburn meets the Seminoles in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 6 in Pasadena.
Mason has become such a hot commodity in the last month that he was on the red carpet at Thursday's Home Depot College Football Awards in Orlando, even though he wasn't nominated for an award there. ESPN still wanted to showcase him one more time before he heads to New York on Friday for the most prestigious college award of them all.
Auburn's Gus Malzahn accepted the Home Depot Coach of the Year Award on Thursday night there, a day after learning he had won it. "Our assistant coaches deserve a lot of the credit," Malzahn said.
Auburn even won for the play of the year. Chris Davis' unlikely 109-yard return of a missed field goal to beat Alabama on the last play of the game was named the winner in a Twitter vote, beating out, among others, Auburn's bounce-pass win over Georgia.
Malzahn and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher shared an interview during the show.
"It's really been something," Malzahn said of Auburn's turnaround season.
Fisher said he sensed a big season in spring practice "just the way we went to practice and the purpose we went to practice with."
Then Mason and Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner shared their appreciation for their opponent. Joyner called tough-running Mason a "Manimal, half man, half animal."
Malzahn said Mason is "one of our best players, he's one of leaders and he's helped us get here."
Auburn. Orlando. New York. In the big picture, during a big season and a shot at the BCS national championship, Mason said, "I'm just excited to be here where I am today. It's been a blessing."
Mason leads the SEC in scoring and rushing touchdowns. His attitude shows why.
"Let's score every time I touch it. If I don't score, it's going to be a big play," he said from Orlando.
Before that, Mason said he really doesn't know fellow Heisman finalist Winston, but "I have a lot of friends that play for Florida State. A whole lot. I go visit those guys sometimes, and he's around. He's a funny guy, though."
The winner of the Heisman will be announced Saturday night, Auburn time, on ESPN. Mason, of course, will be there; and so will Malzahn, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and running backs coach Tim Horton.
Winston is considered the favorite by those who monitor such things. But Mason, named the SEC's Offensive Player of the Year this week by the league's coaches and the Associated Press, grabbed the attention of Heisman voters last Saturday when he rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns while helping Auburn beat Missouri in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
Mason credited his offensive line.
"That's the strength of our team," he said. "When they get their job done, I've got to do mine."
Here are the six finalists for the Heisman:
Tre Mason, Auburn
He leads the SEC in rushing with 1,621 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns are the most ever by an SEC running back. His 2,137 all-purpose yards are a school record. He has at least one rushing touchdown in 10 straight games.
He needs 166 yards to break Bo Jackson's single-season rushing record at Auburn.
Mason rushed for 1,289 yards and had 17 touchdowns against nine SEC opponents.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
He had a Cam Newton-like season, passing for 2,676 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushing for 1,881 yards and 22 more touchdowns.
He led Northern Illinois to a 12-1 record.
He set a Division I single-game record for a quarterback when he rushed for 321 yards in a game late in the year.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
He made headlines last season by winning the Heisman Trophy, then made some more with some off-the-field news involving autographs and such. He'll come into the Heisman announcement with the perceived notion he had a down year. Actually, his stats are better than when he won the Heisman Trophy.
He passed for 3,732 yards and 33 touchdowns, a school record, and rushed for 686 yards and eight touchdowns. Only one player has won the Heisman more than once, Ohio State's Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975.
AJ McCarron, Alabama
He's leaving Alabama as the winningest quarterback in school history. Steady as always, McCarron passed for 2,676 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. He completed 67 percent of his passes this year.
Andre Williams Boston College
Like Auburn with its running game, Boston College didn't care if you knew Williams was going to run it. He leads Division I with 2,102 rushing yards, plus 17 touchdowns. He accounts for 51 percent of Boston College's offense. Thursday, he won the Doak Walker Award, which honors the nation's top running back.
Jameis Winston, Florida State
Winston is trying to become the second freshman (albeit a redshirt one) to win the Heisman, joining Manziel. Winston led the Seminoles to a 13-0 record, helped by a school-record 38 touchdown passes. Winston won the top quarterbacks awards during Thursday's awards show.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: