Alabama quarterback Mac Jones needed a strong postseason to nail down the Manning Award.
He got it.
Throwing for 761 yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions in playoff victories against Notre Dame and Ohio State boosted the Crimson Tide to the national championship and Jones to the Manning Award, which goes to the county’s top college quarterback.
The award is presented by the Allstate Sugar Bowl and honors the college accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. A panel of national and local media along with the Manning family votes on the award, the only one in college football which takes bowl games and the playoffs into consideration.
“It was quite a year for Mac Jones and the Alabama football team,” Archie Manning said during Tuesday’s announcement ceremony. “We had a lot of outstanding quarterbacks in the country, but I don’t think any player directed his offense as efficiently and effectively as Mac.
“Alabama was an amazing team and a lot of credit for that goes to Mac.”
Jones was probably a longshot for the Manning and any other awards going into the 2020 season. A redshirt junior from Jacksonville, Florida, he had only four career starts, those coming at the end of last season when Alabama lost Tua Tagovailoa to injury.
But Jones became the efficient leader of a Crimson Tide offensive powerhouse, which included Heisman-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith, and led his team to a perfect 13-0 record as he passed for 4,500 yards and 44 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
Jones led the country in passing efficiency (203.06) and QBR (96.1).
“I got a few starts under my belt and didn’t look back,” Jones said. “I had great teammates who all trusted me, too.
“We all picked each other up when we were down. We didn’t just make it on our ability.”
Jones and his teammates also had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, something, he said, that put particular pressure on the starting quarterback.
“This year presented a lot of new challenges for all of us,” Jones said. “When you’re the quarterback, you need to be a good leader, and that can be hard when things are going bad.
“But we all did a good job handling all of the stress. I’ve got to give myself a little credit for being locked in.”
Off the field, Jones earned his undergraduate degree in business communications in 2019 and his masters in sports hospitality in December.
In addition to the Manning Award, Jones won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Davey O’Brian Award. He was third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Smith, his favorite receiving target, and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Jones, who declared for the NFL Draft last week, is the first Manning winner from Alabama in the 17-year history of the award and the sixth from a Southeastern Conference school, including Joe Burrow of LSU in 2019.
Other Manning Award finalists were Lawrence, Ian Book (Notre Dame), Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Justin Fields (Ohio State), Dillon Gabriel (UCF), Sam Howell (North Carolina), Grayson McCall (Coastal Carolina), Brock Purdy (Iowa State), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), Kyle Trask (Florida) and Zach Wilson (BYU).
COVID protocols permitting, Jones will be presented his Manning Award in person in New Orleans sometime in the near future.