Bryce Young saved his best performances for last, and in doing so ran away with this year's Heisman Trophy, winning the award in a ceremony in New York City on Saturday night.
A sophomore and former five-star prospect from California, Young entered the season with sky-high expectations as the presumptive choice to replace former Crimson Tide quarterback and NFL first-round pick Mac Jones.
During a coaching convention in Texas this summer, Alabama coach Nick Saban drew even more attention when he let it be known that Young, before ever starting a game, would earn six figures in name, image and likeness deals, which became available to college athletes for the first time this year.
Young not only cashed in, he lived up to the hype, beginning with a four-touchdown performance in a season-opening win over then-No. 14 Miami before going on the road to beat then-No. 11 Florida two weeks later. Despite playing behind a shaky offensive line, he dazzled with his ability to keep calm under pressure, evade the pass rush and find his receivers downfield. An accurate passer, he completed 68.0% of his attempts and didn't throw his first interception of the season until Week 4 against Southern Miss.
In the end, Young's Heisman credentials included a sterling 43 passing touchdowns and only four interceptions. A gifted, albeit reticent runner, he also rushed for three scores.
But it was down the stretch, in a dramatic come-from-behind win at Auburn to close out the regular season and then by dominating No. 3 Georgia and its top ranked defense in the SEC championship game a week later, that Young sealed his Heisman victory.
"Whenever you can win an award like this, it doesn't go as an individual award but it's a team award because I couldn't do it without any of those guys," Young said in his speech, referring to his Crimson Tide teammates. "I'd like to thank Coach Saban. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for your guidance and putting me in situations to be successful and for us as a team to be successful."
At Auburn, Young and Alabama trailed 10-3 with 1:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and star receiver Jameson Williams sidelined after he was ejected for targeting in the first half. Backed up against his own 3-yard line, Young led the team on a 12-play, 97-yard drive, which he capped off by throwing a score-tying, 28-yard touchdown pass to freshman wideout Ja'Corey Brooks, who had only two catches entering the game.
Four overtimes later, Young threw the game-winning two-point conversion to John Metchie III, keeping the Tide's hope of reaching the College Football Playoff alive. On Dec. 31, No. 1 Alabama will play No. 4 Cincinnati in the CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
Young also won the Maxwell Award, given to the best player in college football, and the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's top quarterback.
"It's really about belief in yourself and it's about belief in your preparation and your abilities and not allowing people to write your story and to dictate your life to you and to taking control of your destiny and just being the best person you can be," Craig Young, Bryce's father, said during ESPN's telecast. "And I think he personifies that."
In winning the Heisman, Alabama became the sixth school to win the award in back-to-back seasons. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith won it last year.
Michigan defensive lineman and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Aidan Hutchinson finished second in this year's voting, followed by Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.
Alabama narrowly missed out on having two Heisman finalists in back-to-back seasons as star linebacker Will Anderson Jr. finished fifth in the voting. A sophomore from Georgia, Anderson led the country in sacks (15.5) and tackles for loss (32.5).