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updated: 12/10/2013 9:02 PM

Heisman trip fitting tribute to wide-eyed Lynch

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  • Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch will be in New York on Saturday for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

    Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch will be in New York on Saturday for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
    Associated Press


This has always had something of a "Hoosiers" feel to it, so it shouldn't be all that surprising that neither Jordan Lynch nor Rod Carey has ever visited New York.

"It's gonna be a great experience," Lynch said. "The 'Big Apple.' Is that what they call it?"

If it weren't so genuine -- so humble and focused -- it might be comical, but the reality is that for the last 13 or 14 months NIU has been the unknown school knocking on the big NCAA door, trying to pry it open and hoping to be taken seriously.

Unfortunately, the rims are three stories high in DeKalb and the free-throw line for NIU has always been 100 feet from the bucket.

With apologies for mixing sports metaphors, it makes it all the more startling that NIU nearly busted the BCS twice -- and even more impressive now that they have a player attending the Heisman ceremony.

It is not merely reward for Lynch. It is a just reward. And as much as he earned it, losing the MAC title game Friday appeared to knock Lynch from the front row.

"There was a lot of publicity for being undefeated. Losing that game, I didn't know what voters would do. I'm happy they were still voting for me," Lynch said at a news conference Tuesday morning, following the Monday night announcement that he was a Heisman finalist. "I'm going there to win. I'm not going to come in last -- or second place."

That is quintessential Lynch, fighting Goliath until he's out of rocks. But Lynch will not win Saturday in New York, and he's not likely to be in the top three, though second place was a real possibility before Friday night's disaster.

It's a game that will linger in the hearts of Huskie faithful and in the minds of NIU players, but the Heisman news was a fine consolation prize under the circumstances, even though Lynch would have none of that.

"The news is great, but I'd trade this in a heartbeat for a win and a MAC championship," Lynch said. "It stings. It hurts deep down, but it's a great accomplishment (to be invited) and hard to look past that."

The head coach has no choice but to rally the troops. Even if losing that game sticks with him, he must get the train back on the tracks.

"We had our time to wallow in self-pity, but it's time to move onward, and this (Heisman news) is a step in the right direction," Carey said. "We have a game to go win in San Diego, and we've never won 13 games here at NIU. We have to go prepare for the Poinsettia Bowl and be ready to win the game in the fourth quarter against a tough opponent."

Before that happens, Carey, Lynch and his family will travel to New York, where the QB can stare up at the Manhattan skyline from a tour bus window before meeting former Heisman winners.

This is a young man from the South Side of Chicago who wasn't exactly flown around the country on recruiting visits, wasn't given a chance to play the position anywhere else, making his ascension to the top of the national football conversation one of the NCAA's greatest upsets.

"I get to go there and spend time with family and coaches. It's awesome," Lynch said. "We don't have a lot of tickets. So far, my mom and dad, but I'd like to get my little brother there.

"I'd like to meet Bo Jackson. It would be cool to meet anyone who's won a Heisman. But I don't feel like I'm going for me. I'm going for my teammates and my coaches and my university. I didn't do this by myself."

You can tell Carey is relishing the chance to coach Lynch one final time, telling a story Tuesday of a no-pads, preseason practice in 2012, when the offense was anything but sharp.

"We just went out and stunk it up," Carey said. "When it was over, Jordan pulled the offense together and got after everyone. He said, 'I'm embarrassed. Let's do something about this. We have too many seniors to look like this.'

"As a coach, it sends chills down your spine because you know you have something special.

"He truly believes none of this is possible without every member of the team. He's a great teammate, and that's not always the case with the most talented guys.

"I'm really excited for him. His body of work speaks for itself. This is for him. I love his attitude about his teammates and he's right, but we're really proud of him."

Still, Lynch deflected the praise.

"I'm happy for NIU and it's great exposure for the MAC," he said. "It proves there's great football everywhere, and if you can play football, you can play football anywhere."

So it's New York, San Diego, a few more months in DeKalb and then perhaps the NFL for Lynch. There is much debate about his position and his future.

But after all we've seen the last two years, after all he's overcome and accomplished, it seems that betting against Jordan Lynch might be a risky proposition.

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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