Two steps back, to the inside of Michigan’s 8-yard line, was the statement: Desmond Howard would return it. Once he caught the Ohio State hit and made his way onto the court, he committed.
“If I was blocked anywhere from the 20-yard line onward,” Howard recalled years later, “Coach Moeller would hotter than fish fat. ”
It was November 23, 1991, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, 30 years ago, and Michigan led Ohio State, March 17, in the second quarter in Ann Arbor. Howard installed the stele at a Heisman Trophy season with arguably the most memorable celebration in college football history.
As he plunged to the left, in front of the Ohio State bench, Howard defeated the eventual Buckeye, Go player Tim Williams, and ABC’s Keith Jackson ended the TV moment: “Hello, Heisman !”
“Everything just played out like a script from a movie,” Howard recalls this time to The Sporting News’ Bill Bender. “You couldn’t script it better, especially with Keith Jackson voicing the actual play. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
How far do you think you could hear 106,156 days later that fall at Michigan Stadium? How many more than 106,156 could there be as of today who have claimed to have been there?
Howard, ball in left hand, right arm straight up, right index finger for 1, cross the goal line, slow down, corner to the end of the field and then…
The Heisman poses are relatively quick – yes, posture , once after crossing the goal line and again just before his teammates rounded him up – which Michigan coach Gary Moeller missed from his sideline, College Football Insider, Ivan Maisel wrote in the December 2, 1991 issue of The Sporting News:
When asked about it in the joyful atmosphere of victory (31-7), Moeller denied it.
“One of my players wouldn’t do something like that,” he said.
“Howard said he promised his parents that he would do something special if he scored the knockdown,” Maisel continued. “As if the return of the punt player, a record Michigan completed largely without help from his teammates, wasn’t special enough.”
Five pages later, The Sporting News’ Heisman Watch rates his chances: “Howard… has bad points and bad posture. Now all he needs is the presentation.”
Keep that in mind because the season Heisman won isn’t built on a single play, one or two poses, even as Maisel, a voter, admits he might be ready to pick Howard in mid-September (more on that from Maisel in a moment).
A step-by-step Heisman win, electrifying afternoon equals electrifying, starting with Michigan’s opening goal against Boston College on September 7, then The Sporting News, in its September 16 issue, no. just named Howard Attacker of the Week but also enhanced a season-long storyline in the first six words:
Desmond Howard entered the Heisman battle with four TDs, including the second leg at 93 yards, in his team’s 35-13 win over Boston College. He had seven catches for 86 yards and became the third Michigan player to catch three TD passes in a game, along with Ron Kramer (1955) and Greg McMurtry (1989). However, it will be difficult for anyone to catch up with David Klingler in the Heisman race. Howard said: “I couldn’t touch him. “He can throw nine more TDs on the next play.”
A week later, however, Klingler – QB appeared in The Sporting News on a 1991 college football preview with the headline, “LONE STAR: Houston’s trigger David Klingler takes aim at Heisman” – dropped from 1st place on TSN’s Heisman Watch to 5th, his hopes cut short: “Houston’s quarterback has no time to blink, little has found his recipient ( in a 40-10 loss) against Miami. His bid for Heisman will be hurt, if not completely devastated. “
That same Heisman Watch, in the September 23 issue, featured Howard in second place, behind Miami WR Kevin Williams, but dubbed Howard “as Heisman’s favorite, if only because Miami has one Desmond Howards, that makes it Hard to Choose.”
Howard established himself as a legitimate championship contender in Week 2 with two more TDs while visiting Notre Dame, more notably during a catch dive in the back of the final zone in game three. 4 and 1 in a 25-yard encounter with No. 7 Play against Irish to win 24-14.
On the 25th anniversary of “The Catch”, SN’s Bill Bender wrote in 2016:
“Timing is everything.”
That’s the phrase Desmond Howard almost always uses when he describes “The Catch,” the play that kicked off his Heisman Trophy campaign in Michigan on September 14, 1991.
THAN: TSN Archives: 1991 Player of the Year Desmond Howard, Michigan
That echoes Maisel’s assessment, while explaining his Heisman ballot in the December 16 issue of The Sporting News:
Des-mania began sweeping the nation on September 14, as Michigan split points to end Desmond Howard’s stunning dive before Elvis Grbac’s 25-yard, fourth-touch down pass sealed a 24-14 victory. of the Wolverines before Notre Dame.
But there’s no way any voter should decide before the season ends. The right?
So (now) I’m voting for Desmond Howard. Forget the magic stats. As he finished the game at 93 yards to beat Ohio State by doing a Heisman pose, Howard showcased his sense of humor as well as his moves. Howard winked at the nation. We should wink again.
A few days later, on December 17, an appropriate part of the nation did just that; Heisman voters winked back at Howard, the 1991 trophy was his.