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Who will strike the 2008 Heisman pose?

NEW YORK

As the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow had the unusual opportunity this week of having a direct impact in determining this year's winner. His own Heisman vote. So as Tebow sat down to study statistics and ponder which players to vote for, he had to ask himself what qualities a Heisman winner should possess. "I think probably they have to set a standard for their team and they have to be a great leader," he said. "They should probably do something that's really recognizable, something they did that year as far as their leadership, athletic ability, winning clutch games, something like that. Something that sets themselves apart from everyone else."

He reluctantly admits, he fits the mold, but is quick to point out that so do the other Heisman finalists — Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

With that said, when the announcement is made tonight, regardless of whose name is called, Tebow said Friday afternoon that he's at peace with the entire process. After all, he has one trophy. And unlike last year, he still has a national championship to play for.

"I don't think there's too much suspense this year," he said. "I'm just enjoying it and trying to have fun. It's a pleasure being back up here."

Tebow is trying to become the first two-time Heisman winner since Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975 at Ohio State. He declined to say how he voted in the confidential balloting but said he did his best to be fair.

On Friday afternoon, the three finalists sat in a New York City hotel suite and talked about the time they've spent this week getting to know each other — as people rather than star athletes. And both McCoy and Bradford said they had no problem with Tebow voting for himself if he chose to.

"I'm not (upset), especially with the season that he had," said Bradford, who will play Tebow on Jan. 8 for the BCS national title. "I definitely think it would be fair for him to vote for himself, if he did."

Bradford and McCoy have the better statistics, however. Bradford has thrown for 4,464 yards and 48 touchdowns, McCoy has 3,445 yards and 32 touchdowns and Tebow has 2,515 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Tebow isn't sure what the voters think, but he honestly believes he's a better quarterback than he was last season.

"I was a better leader, better manager, better runner of the offense and runner of the team this year," Tebow said. "I don't think I had to do as much with my own body making the plays, but as far as everything else, as far as the intangibles, I think I was better."

After the Gators' Sept. 27 loss to Ole Miss, Tebow was essentially counted out of the race. But after leading his team to seven consecutive wins and the SEC championship over then-No. 1 Alabama, Tebow earned his way back among the top candidates.

"He's the whole thing, the whole package," said offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, who this week took the head-coaching job at Mississippi State. "You can argue Tim might not be the best running quarterback in the country and he might not be the best passing quarterback in the country. He might not be the best quarterback in the country. But as far as a football player, I think he is the best football player in the country."

Whether voters agree depends on which unofficial poll you're studying. The Scripps-Howard Heisman poll, which has correctly predicted 18 of the past 21 winners, including Tebow last season, has Tebow finishing third with McCoy winning. But others have the race at a dead heat between Tebow and Bradford.

Heisman officials said this could be the closest race in recent history. As for Griffin, he's ready to share the honor of two-time champion if it comes to that.

"I want the person who's deserving of winning the Heisman Trophy to win the Heisman Trophy," he said earlier this year. "If Tim Tebow has a season deserving of winning, I want him to win it."

For Tebow, the ultimate team player, it's all good, either way.

"No matter what happens (tonight), there's still a lot to focus on and still work for," Tebow said. "Our big goals are still out there (national title) and that's more important."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Finalists vs. defenses*

Name, team Top 50 Top 20 Top 10

Tim Tebow, Florida 10 5 2

Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 3 1 1

Colt McCoy, Texas 0 0 0

*Division I-A teams ranked by total defense (yards/game)

Who will strike the 2008 Heisman pose? 12/12/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:26pm]
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