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<p>Johnny Townsend punts during Florida's 31-13 loss to Florida State on Nov. 26, 2016, at Doak Campbell Stadium.</p>

Johnny Townsend punts during Florida's 31-13 loss to Florida State on Nov. 26, 2016, at Doak Campbell Stadium.

I’m going to start this column off with a question designed to make you think.

If the saying is “defense wins championships,” then why does the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award in all of college football, only go to an offensive player?

Think about it.

Since the turn of the century, only quarterbacks and running backs have won the Heisman. No one else. Why can’t a defensive player have his turn?

Or better yet, why not someone on special teams?

Now, I know I probably made someone furious at the sheer notion that a punter or a kick returner could be in the same conversation for the Heisman as a Lamar Jackson- or Tim Tebow-type player.

But those positions can be just as important as a quarterback or wide receiver.

Just ask Devin Hester, who became one of the most feared punt returners in the NFL.

It’s not everyday you see a special teams player garner attention.

So when Oklahoma State punter Zach Sinor started his own campaign to win the 2017 Heisman by handing out an awesome pamphlet during Big 12 media days, it was no surprise that it appeared all over the news.

He actually made a pretty solid, eye-opening case for why he should be on everyone’s Heisman watch list.

After all, as Sinor pointed out, 35 of his punts were downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, totaling 62.5% of his total punts. Both of those stats were good enough to rank first in the country. He even helped his team finish first nationally in opponents’ starting field position.

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His contributions for the Cowboys were good, and it even compares to current Gators fan favorite, Johnny Townsend.

Time after time last season, Townsend gave the Gators defense great field position to work with. He led the nation with a 47.9 yard average on 64 punts, had 29 punts go 50 yards or more and pinned 27 punts inside inside the 20-yard line. He totaled 3065 yards, a little under two miles in punts.

What the Orlando native did on the field made an impact with both the team and the fans, as his punts helped Florida move the ball at times where the offense couldn’t.

Even if Townsend shouldn’t be standing next to four other men contending for the Heisman, his and Sinor’s play should be enough to make the committee change their minds on who they nominate for this award.

While a quarterback is basically responsible for putting points on the board for his team, a defense is there to stop the other team from doing so. And special teams helps determine field position after every punt or kickoff.

Now, maybe having a punter winning the Heisman sounds farfetched and is just one really big, kinda funny joke, but it doesn’t change the fact that mainly offensive players are chosen for it.

My point is, if the Heisman Trophy is supposed to be awarded to the best collegiate football player, maybe it’s time to take a look at all the other great players in the game, not just those on offense. 

Jake Dreilinger is assistant sports editor of the Alligator. His column appears frequently on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.

Johnny Townsend punts during Florida's 31-13 loss to Florida State on Nov. 26, 2016, at Doak Campbell Stadium.

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