Sam’s Section: Why Travis Hunter could win the Heisman Trophy, and why he might not 

Colorado cornerback Travis Hunter (12) catches a pass for a first down against TCU cornerback Avery Helm (24) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by LM Otero/AP Photo.

College football season is in full swing, with ranked teams like LSU, Clemson and TCU falling this weekend. 

Out of all the games during Labor Day Weekend, the Colorado-TCU game was one of the most highly anticipated. 

With head coach Deion Sanders arriving in Boulder, there has been a lot of hype for a program that has not been in the national spotlight since 2002.  

While quarterback Shedeur Sanders threw for a school-record 510 yards and four touchdowns in his debut, the star was two-way player Travis Hunter. He emerged as a Heisman Trophy-caliber player in Week 1, but can he keep this up? 

Hunter is a one-of-a-kind player. Being able to play 144 snaps, 80 on defense and 64 on offense, is absurd. At wide receiver, Hunter had 11 receptions for 119 yards. At cornerback, he had an interception in addition to three total tackles and a pass deflection. Hunter is similar to his coach, who was primarily a cornerback but also played as a return specialist and a wide receiver. If he can play that many snaps in 98-degree weather, he should be able to endure other conditions that the upcoming schedule should have. 

His athleticism is unreal. The diving interception while TCU was in the red zone made me wonder if he is human. 

“This kid is a first-rounder on both sides of the ball,” Deion Sanders said about Hunter on FS1’s Undisputed. 

Every Heisman Trophy winner has been on a team contending for a national championship. It is way too early to tell, but Colorado might have one of the best offenses in the nation, with four different receivers over 100 receiving yards. Don’t forget about running back Dylan Edwards and his own Heisman-caliber day. 

However, the competition is fierce for Hunter. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams is the current favorite after leading USC to comfortable wins over San José State and Nevada. He would also have to beat out Edwards and Shedeur Sanders, who are also under consideration for the Heisman Trophy. 

It is an award mainly given to quarterbacks. Since 2000, only four winners have not been quarterbacks. The last time a primarily defensive player won the award was in 1997 when cornerback Charles Woodson won it at Michigan.  

Colorado cornerback Travis Hunter runs against TCU during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by LM Otero/AP Photo.

It’s way too early to tell if Hunter will be able to keep this up. Playing 144 snaps every week is exhausting, can lead to potential injury and will most certainly leave him fatigued. You can’t expect to play great for just a month and be considered the best in college football at the end of the season. 

Colorado has had only one Heisman Trophy winner, running back Rashaan Salaam in 1994. But, before Williams, it has been nine years since the last winner from the Pac-12. 

The Pac-12 has had a reputation for subpar defenses. USC is selected to win the conference despite having an unappealing defense. The conference’s defenses helped Williams secure the Trojans’ first winner since Reggie Bush had his vacated in 2005. 

One thing is for sure, however. Coach Prime has made it known that you should not doubt Hunter, and you saw it in Week 1. 

Overall, I don’t think it’s likely that Hunter will win the award, but I also don’t think it is out of the question. A player not on a national contender rarely wins the Heisman Trophy. In the 21st century, only Carson Palmer, Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and Lamar Jackson are the only players to win the Heisman Trophy on a team with two losses or more. Colorado, now ranked 22nd in the country, will need to defy the odds and be one of the best teams in a loaded Pac-12. 

Along with that, rarely are the winners or contenders not quarterbacks. Alabama’s DeVonta Smith is the most recent winner, becoming the first wide receiver to win the trophy since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. Hunter needs to put up Smith numbers on offense and Woodson numbers on defense to secure the award. 

We’ve seen defensive players take the trip to New York in hopes of winning the Heisman Trophy. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Ohio State’s Chase Young are the most notable ones from recent years. It seems improbable a second defensive player would win the award. 

Colorado has their home opener this Saturday against Nebraska, a rivalry that peaked in the 1990s. Kickoff is set for noon on FOX, as the Heisman hype continues for Hunter in Week 2. 

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