Alabama quarterback Bryce Young officially won the 2021 Heisman Trophy on Saturday, giving Alabama its first player at that position to win the most illustrious individual honor in American sports.
The victory not only marked the first time a Crimson Tide quarterback had won the award, it also made Alabama just the sixth program in the history of the Heisman to produce back-to-back winners, following Yale (1936-37), Army (1945-46), Ohio State (1974-75), USC (2004-05) and Oklahoma (2017-18). And former Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith, the player who made that feat possible for the Crimson Tide, had a special message for Young following his unveiling as the latest Heisman winner.
Smith, who won the trophy in a virtual ceremony 2020 — as necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic — delivered a pre-recorded message to his former college roommate, who was able to accept his award in person at the Lincoln Center in New York.
Smith noted several similarities between himself and Young in the video, specifically noting how both faced question marks over their size. Young, listed at 6-0, 194 pounds, was both the shortest and lightest of the four 2021 Heisman finalists (the other three finalists were Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson). Smith had a listed playing height and weight of 6-1, 175 pounds at Alabama.
“Bryce, from the day you stepped foot on campus, we knew you were different,” Smith said. “Sure, people had their doubts: Too small. Too skinny. They said the same thing about me. But here you are.”
Indeed, Young (314-of-462 passing, 4,322 yards, 43 touchdowns, four interceptions; 31 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns) made note of his doubters in his Heisman acceptance speech:
“You know, for me, I’ve always been someone who’s been labeled as not the prototype,” Young said. “And, being an African American quarterback and being ‘undersized’ and not being that prototype, I’ve always been ruled out and counted out. People a lot of times have told me that I wasn’t going to be able to make it. And for me, it’s always been about, not really proving them wrong, but proving to myself what I can accomplish.”
It appears Heisman voters didn’t bother to consider Young’s size in their votes: he secured 684 first-place votes (10th-most all time), winning all six Heisman voting regions and commanding 83 percent of the total votes.
That wasn’t the only connection Smith made to Young in his congratulatory message — he also noted how he was the recipient of the future Heisman Trophy winner’s first collegiate touchdown pass, an 18-yard connection vs. Kentucky in 2020.
Said Smith: “Little did they know, that pass was from one Heisman winner to another.”
“So from the entire Alabama family,” Smith said, “thank you. And welcome to the Heisman family.”