No player in recent memory exemplifies the classic Hayes-Schembechler, Big Ten philosophy of “three yards and a cloud of dust” better than Mark Weisman. In his Iowa days, Weisman stood 5’11” and weighed 245 pounds. He ran his 40 yard dash in 4.6 seconds. He transferred from the Air Force Academy and walked on at Iowa to play fullback and clear the way for smaller, faster running backs. But somewhere along the way, we learned there’s still a little old school magic in the Big Ten. Despite playing in a golden age of spread offenses and ungodly fast defenses, Weisman put his head down, powered through every arm tackle, and led Iowa in rushing three freakin’ seasons in a row. After three years and a cloud of dust, Weisman was the sixth leading rusher in Iowa history and an inspiration to under-recruited thumpers everywhere.
Each season, The Fake Punt recognizes the single player who best carries on Weisman’s legacy, who best embodies this foundation of Big Ten football. The Big Ten may have plenty of juking scatbacks, high-jumping pass catchers, and deep-bombing-lobbing quarterbacks, but the adoption of their styles of play has always made the Big Ten uneasy. We tried-and-true Midwesterners will always prefer the old ways, the simpler times. And so The Fake Punt’s highest honor goes to the player who captures this essence, who answers the coach’s call on 4th and 2 up the gut, who knows that the best way to beat a defense is to go through a defender.
This is the preseason watchlist for the first annual Weisman Trophy:
Khalid Hill, Michigan (6’2, 265): Hill has the cloud of dust thing down, but we’re not sure the goal line goliath can run longer distances of 2 and 3 yards. He scored 1 TD for every 3.9 yards gained in 2016; Weisman scored 1 TD for every 81.3 yards. Hill needs to gain a little more and score a little less.
Tyler Natee, Indiana (6’1, 260): Natee has the girth and bruising style to hoist the Weisman, but will voters punish him if he runs out of the wildcat? Weisman would never do that, he hates cats.
LJ Scott, Michigan State (6’1, 230): Scott may have some breakaway touchdowns to his name, but he leaves bodies in his wake.
Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska (5’11, 230): Devine won’t be Ozigging and Ozagging, he’ll be going right up the gut.
Gerald Holmes, Michigan State (6’1, 220): Holmes is the spiritual heart of the team, but can he also be its chiseled, bulging quadriceps?
Taiwan Deal, Wisconsin (6’1, 225): With the controversial One Wisconsin policy crumbling, look for an invigorated Taiwan to make good on his promising measurables.
These pounders may be the favorites today, but don’t forget: the beauty of the Weisman Trophy is that anyone could burst through the line, absorb contact, and fall forward to seize the award and a first down, like Weisman himself.
Let the race for the 2017 Weisman Trophy begin.