As crazy as it sounds, Deshaun Watson's name was never etched onto a Heisman Trophy.
The Clemson quarterback's name belongs on that trophy just for his two games against juggernaut Alabama alone.
His total numbers in those two national championship games (a 45-40 loss last year and a 35-31 victory on Monday night) would be impressive against anybody. Considering they came against mighty Bama makes them jaw dropping.
In eight quarters, he completed 66 of 103 passes for 825 yards and seven touchdowns. Oh, and he ran for 106 yards and a touchdown. Against Alabama.
But of course, the Heisman Trophy ballots had been cast long before Watson's two mind-blowing performances, which is like naming the valedictorian before final exams.
Fortunately, the Manning Award waits until the very end before it names its winner for college football's best quarterback.
Watson was named the Manning Award winner Thursday.
The Manning Award is voted on by members of the national media, along with Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. The award was created by the Allstate Sugar Bowl to honor the college football accomplishments of the Mannings. It is the only quarterback award that takes into consideration the candidates’ bowl performances in its balloting.
Watson became the first player in the award's 13-year history to win it twice.
"It's great to be able to have your work noticed and have your name attached to these great awards," Watson said.
It's the latest of a long list of awards for Watson, whose rèsumè also includes two Davey O'Brien Awards, a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, a Chic Harley Award and an Archie Griffin Award. The only thing missing is a Heisman, the award that is supposed to go to the most outstanding player in college football. That honor went to Louisville's Lamar Jackson this season and Alabama running back Derrick Henry last year.
In an ideal world, all hardware would be passed out at season's end. Obviously the Heisman can't change its rules in the middle of the game. Fortunately, the Manning Award seems to always get it right. It's part of the reason the award started in the first place.
The Manning Award gets it right.
“When the Allstate Sugar Bowl created the Manning Award in 2004, one of the key components was to recognize achievements throughout the entire year, including bowls, and now the playoff," Archie Manning said. "This year is a prime example of why we do that.”
Watson, a Georgia native, threw for 4,593 yards and 41 touchdowns and rushed for 629 yards and nine touchdowns. He lost just three games his entire college career (while winning 32) and racked up over 11,000 yards of total offense with 115 touchdowns.
But the only number that seems to matter to Watson is "1". He led the Tigers to one national title, the school's first championship since 1981.
Three days after leading Clemson past Alabama, it's all still soaking in for Watson, who somehow remains humble despite helping slay the college football giant Monday night.
"The team pulled it off and kept believing," Watson said. "It's hard to put how I'm feeling and what all I have been going through the past couple days into words.
"Everything has been going pretty smooth. I'm just trying to keep the balance and keep everything simple. Don't make it bigger than what it is."
Watson, who has already earned his degree in communications, will start preparing next week for the NFL draft. He reflected back on his college career Thursday.
"It's been an awesome three years, just being able to especially finish it with a bang," he said. "Winning a national championship against a very good team is very special too."
Watson saved his best for last. With 2:01 left, he marched the Tigers 68 yards down the field and threw the 2-yard game-winner with just one tick left on the clock.
"It was special," Watson said. "It was something we always work on throughout practice. It was no surprise to us. It wasn't something we weren't used to. It's something we were prepared for. When you are prepared for the opportunity and that moment, you seize it and embrace it and good things happen."
It was a drive that will be talked about in Clemson for years to come. It etched Watson's place in Clemson lore and surely swayed any Manning Award voters who may have still been on the fence.
Watson won the award decisively.
It wasn't unanimous though.
Perhaps those voters didn't stick around to see the end of the game.
But hey, at least the Manning Award sticks around to see the end of the season.