Crabtree wins second Biletnikoff
December 11, 2008 · Print This Article
BY DON WILLIAMS AVALANCHE-JOURNAL
The moments before the Biletnikoff Award winner was announced might have been the least suspenseful of any during the ESPN college football awards show.
Who else but defending champion Mike Crabtree, hailed by some as the best wide receiver ever in college football, was going to win? But just like when he pushed himself during summer workouts, Crabtree took nothing for granted about the reward either.
Texas Tech’s star sophomore won the Biletnikoff Award again, the announcement coming Thursday night during the live telecast of ESPN’s annual college football awards show from Orlando, Fla.
“It’s a new year. It feels like a new award,’’ he said. “I had the same excitement as last year. It felt like I was surprised again.’’
On Wednesday, the Red Raiders were a bitter bunch. Tech quarterback Graham Harrell received the unexpected, unpleasant surprise of not being a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and not receiving the invitation to New York that goes along with that distinction.
Thursday was an improvement.
In addition to Crabtree getting the Biletnikoff, the Red Raiders had Crabtree and senior offensive tackle Rylan Reed named to the Walter Camp all-America team revealed during the show. Now four players off this year’s Tech offense have received first-team all-America recognition.
Crabtree, Harrell and junior offensive guard Brandon Carter were on the American Football Coaches Association all-America team released last week.
Harrell, Tech coach Mike Leach and wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons were in the crowd to see Crabtree collect his award and do an onstage interview with ESPN emcee Chris Fowler, but Harrell never got called up. Harrell was a finalist for three awards that went to other quarterbacks — the Walter Camp to Texas’ Colt McCoy, the Davey O’Brien to Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and the Maxwell to Florida’s Tim Tebow.
“Graham, I feel sorry from him,’’ Crabtree said. “I think he should have won at least something. He worked as hard as I did this summer. There’s nothing we could do about it. I told him, ‘We’ve got to try to move forward, try to blow this next team out and prove that we’re better than people think.’’
That next game will come on Jan. 2 where Tech (11-1) takes on Mississippi (8-4) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Harrell will be in Baltimore today for the presentation of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He’s already won that honor, which goes to the top senior quarterback.
Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant and Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin were the other Biletnikoff finalists, a group of three sophomores from the Big 12.
No freshman had ever won the Biletnikoff, which goes to the country’s top receiver, until Crabtree did so in 2007. No one had won it twice either. Whether Crabtree will make a run at a three-peat is up to him. He said he’ll decide after the Cotton Bowl whether to turn pro, contrary to what he said recently when he indicated he’d be returning to the Red Raiders.
“My plan is to tell y’all after the Cotton Bowl,” Crabtree said.
Already, his accomplishments are abundant: A two-year resume of more than 3,000 yards receiving and 40 touchdowns, lending credence to some opinions that he’s the college game’s all-time best at his position.
“It’s something I work for,’’ he said. “Everybody’s got their opinion. To prove it is another thing. I just feel blessed.’’
Taking nothing for granted is one explanation why Crabtree dodged a sophomore-year letdown. Though he didn’t post the same off-the-charts numbers as he did during his debut season, Crabtree still caught 93 passes and scored 18 touchdowns.
And he said it wasn’t always as easy as it looked.
“It was a little different, I’d say,’’ Crabtree said. “I’ve seen a lot of different coverages I didn’t see last year. Sometimes it looked like they were just making stuff up.’’
Harrell and Crabtree hooked up on one of college football’s most important plays of the season, a 28-yard touchdown pass with one second remaining to beat No. 1 Texas 39-33 on Nov. 1 in Lubbock.
A camera caught ESPN’s Fowler, stationed on the Jones AT&T Stadium sideline, slack-jawed as the play unfolded. He was only a few steps away as Crabtree spun free from a Texas defender at the 5-yard line and dashed into the end zone.
Crabtree had some fun during his onstage interview with Fowler.
“I didn’t know what to expect (on that play),’’ Crabtree told Fowler. “The only part I remember about that is you on the sideline with your mouth wide open, man.’’
Crabtree said later his wisecrack, like many of his on-field moves, was improvised on the spot, not pre-planned.
“Not at all,’’ he said. “They told me to plan something. I told them I was just going to go up there and freestyle it.’’