116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — A running back hasn’t won the Heisman Trophy in five years.
If that gets pushed to six years this season, it’ll be the longest stretch ever that a running back hasn’t won the award for the nation’s top player.
Iowa State’s Breece Hall finished sixth in Heisman voting last year and is the only returning player in the top 10. He wants to make sure the streak ends at five years.
“The Heisman trophy, it’s been a dream since I was a kid,” Hall said.
Undoubtedly a quarterback or two will step up and be in consideration, so will another running back and probably a receiver.
But Hall has established himself as one of the nation’s best football players.
He led the nation in rushing last season with 1,572 yards, had the second-most rushing touchdowns with 21 and was the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2000 to rush for at least 75 yards and score at least one touchdown in every game.
Hall has the ability to win the Heisman, but it would take a monster year. Derrick Henry was the last running back to win it and all it took was rushing for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns on a national-championship team.
“Winning it is obviously possible,” Hall said of the Heisman. “As long as we have team success, the individual awards are what they are.
“The Heisman Trophy will always be about who should’ve won it and who could’ve won it.”
Just ask Troy Davis.
Hall’s not motivated by the Heisman — it’d be nice — but he’s about the team. Quarterback Brock Purdy has noticed Hall taking on a larger role in the offense. Not by being more of a threat out of the backfield or helping in pass protection — he does those things, too — but in helping Purdy read defenses before the snap.
“Breece is at the level where he’s comfortable giving me advice, helping me out in reading the defense and calling out different things,” Purdy said. “When Breece started doing that during this fall camp, I knew he was in for a special season.
“To see Breece mold into that kind of player has been awesome. I’m his roommate and we’re in the backfield together, so I’ve had a front-row seat for watching him develop into what you’re going to see this season.”
Being able to read defenses is part of the reason Purdy believes Hall could be in for an even better season this fall.
Hall has outstanding vision, but Purdy said now Hall can see things before they happen.
“We’ve seen glimpses of the best version of Breece,” Purdy said. “But I’ve even seen Breece continue to get even better through fall camp. Just his vision has gotten better. Last year, he had all of these remarkable runs but there were even a few more he could’ve broken free. We’ve seen him breaking those free at camp so far.
“He’ll call something out he sees, I’ll alert the offensive line and we’re great. It’s little things like that that he continues to get better at.”
It’s not just the mental part of the game Hall is improving at. He already was a physical back last year at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. Now, the junior is up to 220 pounds and strength coach Dave Andrews has gotten Hall to the next level, physically.
“Breece has put on some lean mass,” Andrews said in the spring. “I’m thinking he’ll have a little more horsepower. From a physical sense, he is going to be leaner, he’s going to carry more muscle mass, which in turn will carry more horsepower not only to break tackles but if you have more horsepower, you’re capable of accelerating better, which will make it look like he’s faster.”
Hall doesn’t necessarily need to look like he’s faster — he already had 14 20-plus-yard runs and four 50-plus-yard runs last year — but Iowa State won’t argue with the results if he is stronger and faster.
“There’s some word on the street that in a 20-yard race, Breece Hall won the 20,” ISU running backs and receivers coach Nate Scheelhaase said. “I don’t know all the numbers and what everyone ran — you’d have to go ask coach Andrews. And asking coach Andrews for that, you have to watch yourself. You want to go in there with some protection on you because he might throw a left hook at you. He keeps that stuff close to the vest.
“But rumor has it that Breece is the fastest player on our team in the 20-yard dash.”
Hall has all the tools — he’s a good receiver out of the backfield, catching 23 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns — and he has weapons around him to help take the pressure off. The Cyclones have the first-team all-Big 12 quarterback in Purdy, a first-team all-Big 12 receiver in Xavier Hutchinson, an All-America tight end in Charlie Kolar and the best offensive line Iowa State has had in years.
The Cyclones should have team success and if Hall stays healthy, which has never been a problem.
After that, it’s in the hands of the Heisman voters.
Even if it’s not what Hall is focused on.
“Obviously I want to win it but as long as I become the best Breece Hall and as long as we become the best Iowa State, that’s all I can ask for,” Hall said.