NEW YORK -- Ty Detmer's record numbers finally convinced the nation that a Brigham Young quarterback with a strong arm was more deserving of the Heisman Trophy than another Notre Dame flanker.
Detmer won the 56th Heisman Memorial Trophy over Rocket Ismail, presented last night at the Downtown Athletic Club, 1,482 votes to 1,177. Ismail did not even win the Midwest, one of six regions divided for voting, where a strong Ismail showing was predicted to make this one of the closest votes in Heisman history. Only five votes have been closer since 1970, but Detmer won every region handily.
Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy finished third, Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore fourth and Houston quarterback David Klingler fifth.
Detmer was not present at the ceremony -- the third straight year that has occurred -- because BYU played at Hawaii at midnight.
Detmer is the first victor from the Western Athletic Conference and the first to play in the mountain region.
"I think the quarterbacks of the past kind of set the way for us," Detmer said of the BYU passing lineage. "They got the recognition first, then I finally got it for BYU. There is no reason why we shouldn't have one here. We've had a lot of great quarterbacks. It's about time we got one."
Detmer followed quarterbacks Gifford Nielsen, Jim McMahon, Robbie Bosco, Steve Young and Marc Wilson at BYU, only one of whom finished as high as second (Young) in this vote that names the nation's best college football player.
Detmer, 23, was the only candidate to campaign publicly for the award during the last few weeks, speaking candidly about the Notre Dame national publicity machine and the perceived weakness of the WAC football teams. Last night, however, he downplayed both issues, saying, "I didn't worry about who was on TV" and "We were very consistent against a great schedule."
But Detmer, who had passed for 4,869 yards and 38 touchdowns and owned or tied 25 National Collegiate Athletic Association records before last night, said, "I deserved it."
"I would have voted for Ty," Ismail said. "I saw his stats and he was great. I'm very relieved that all this will be over for a while and I can get some rest again."
Ismail had been knocked for his numbers -- he scored only six touchdowns -- and had to deal with questions about whether he was a finalist only because he played for Notre Dame.
"That comes with the business, it's part of the territory," he said. "But I didn't really expect to win. I'm not disappointed, but, yeah, I wantedto win. If I'm fortunate, I'll be back here next year."
Both Detmer and Ismail are juniors and both said they would play college football again next year. Last year's winner, Houston junior quarterback Andre Ware, turned pro after winning the Heisman, as did Oklahoma State junior Barry Sanders in 1988.
"I committed to staying all four years when I signed the scholarship," said Detmer, the son of a high school football coach in Kingsville, Texas.
Sonny Detmer, who coached his team in a playoff game last night, said before the announcement that his son "is one of the most poised players I've ever seen. He even called his own plays in high school." Sonny cried when the announcement was made.
"Ty is a very poised and efficient quarterback," said Moore, who finished only two spots ahead of his teammate, wide receiver Herman Moore. "A lot of people were expecting him to win. I think he deserved it."