Sixty years ago, Sir Winston Churchill gave one of the greatest pep talks of all-time. Speaking to the boys at Harrow School, his speech has been summarized in seven short words, "Never give up! Never, ever give up!"
Churchill would have liked Joey Harrington. Oregon's senior quarterback follows that edict every time he steps onto a football field. Harrington may not be the "best" college football player in the land, but in terms of what he means to the Ducks, Captain Comeback, as he is known in the Northwest, is the man in Eugene, after leading UO to a school-best 10-1 record and a berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day.
Without going into his statistics and boring you with his 23-3 record as a starter and his amazing number of fourth quarter comebacks, I will say that it's the intangibles that make Harrington Heisman worthy. In the words of head coach Mike Bellotti, "Joey is just a winner!"
Don't get me wrong, Oregon is not a one-dimensional team, winning and losing on the arm of Harrington, and Joey would be the first one to point that out. Harrington has always put the team first. If the Ducks can get a win running the ball 90 percent of the time, he is the first one to endorse the game plan if it gets the Ducks a win. He is not a stat guy.
Following one of his more spectacular performances this season, I asked him about his numbers on the day and he replied, "As long as we get the win I don't care who gets the credit." If true character was measurable, Harrington would certainly grade out well in that category.
Joey has led by example during his tenure in Eugene, and while playing in somewhat obscurity, he has generated his recognition not solely on the size of his billboard, but on the size of his heart. He is precisely the man Bellotti wants running the show when the game is on the line. I have seen him in action many times the last few years and the best way to describe his play is he remains in the eye. What I mean by that is when everyone and everything else is like a hurricane of adversity and pressure, Harrington remains like the eye of the hurricane -- cool, calm and in control.
The past three weeks, Joey has been wearing a beaded bracelet on his wrist in honor of a close friend of Coach Bellotti, who is battling cancer. There are just seven words on the bracelet, but they tell you everything you need to know: B-E-L-I-E-V-E.
A Heisman case can be made for many players this year on both offense and defense. And while all the finalists for this prestigious award are more than deserving of the honor, for those in the Northwest, they know that Joey Harrington is the man.
Todd Harris spotlights the Pac-10 for ABC Sports Online. He will be on the sidelines for the national championship game on ABC on Jan. 3 with Keith Jackson and Tim Brant.