If he played for an SEC or Big 12 team, you'd see his name in lights. You couldn't visit any college football website, read any preseason magazine or watch any TV show without hearing it. There would be no escaping it:
Damaris Johnson for Heisman.
You'll never hear it, though, in the media landscape that we live in. He isn't the sexiest name out there. He isn't the flashiest postgame sound bite. You wouldn't recognize him as a big, hulk of a football stud if you sat down next to him in the cafeteria. He doesn't wear a Florida Gators helmet, or an Ohio State, USC or Texas jersey.
He plays at the University of Tulsa.
If he wore a Pac-12 crest across his chest, they'd know him. If he led the ACC in receptions, they'd care.
But they don't. Because he plays in Conference USA. For a non-AQ school.
That doesn't mean he isn't deserving of the nation's top honor. Or, at least, being in the conversation as college football's top player. He's got the credentials for sure.
Don't believe me? The stats are the proof. He's the nation's ALL-TIME LEADER IN ALL PURPOSE YARDAGE… EVER. And, he's done it in three years.
He has more return yards than anyone who ever put on pads. He is a production machine.
But, come on, Bobby, he's not even the best player in this state…
Oh? He's up for more preseason award watch lists than any other player. Landry Jones and Justin Blackmon are on three watch lists apiece. Ryan Broyles and Brandon Weeden are on two each.
Damaris is on five.
You can argue all day long that the competition isn't good enough. You can project that he'd get swallowed up in the bigger conferences. But those aren't valid arguments either.
Against the Cowboys last year, in a game in which his team struggled mightily, he was pretty good. Seven touches for 139 all-purpose yards. That's an average performance for DJ. Against Notre Dame, he was anything but average. Ten touches on offense for 82 yards and a touchdown, plus a punt return for a score at a crucial time in the game.
In the Hawai'i Bowl, he caught four balls for 101 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed five times for 98 yards and a 67-yard score.
In the six biggest games of his career, against the biggest non-conference opponents (Notre Dame, OSU, OU, Boise State and two bowl games), Damaris has put up 1,295 all-purpose yards on 71 touches. That's absurd.
He's done well against the ‘big boys' and torched conference opponents as well. You may not consider him a top-tier athlete in the nation, but the numbers just don't lie. He's the heart and soul of the Tulsa team and a highlight machine.
If you had a vote, would you give it to the guy with the chic name under the fancy, prestigious helmet? Or, would you give it to a guy that's truly deserving, with a heart bigger than any other?
His quarterback told me Johnson is deserving. His coach said he's got what it takes.
Are they right?