To win the Heisman Memorial Trophy, a player has to excel on the field. And his team has to win games. But what also matters is the individual player's personal story.
The Heisman Trust, which administers the award and named its three finalists earlier this week, is up front about this. Its mission statement reads: "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work."
It's a fascinating mission statement--especially if you consider how radically it differs from the way most media members and fans perceive the Heisman. The general perception of the award is that it's something like college football's Most Valuable Player trophy, given to the best or most high-impact player each season. But the mission statement only specifies that the player is "outstanding." It qualifies this "outstanding" by insisting that the player also exhibits "diligence, perseverance, and hard work."
In this context, it can be fruitful to explore the stories of this year's Heisman nominees. What, in their bios, exemplifies the integrity the Heisman Trust is seeking? And if those traits--"diligence, perseverance, and hard work"--are virtues that your business also possesses, what is the best way for you to market yourself for having those traits? Let's examine the stories of the three Heisman finalists, one by one:
1. Derrick Henry, junior, Alabama. Henry's teammates elected him a captain, which means he has likely earned respect in the locker room with his integrity and hard work. The perserverance piece also applies to Henry. Like most players who join a stacked program such as Alabama, Henry had to wait for his turn in the spotlight. In his freshman season, he only carried the ball 35 times. Coaches cursed at him for the first time in his life. He was so upset, he wanted to leave the school. But he stuck it out. This year, he carried the ball 339 times and set countless records.
2. Christian McCaffrey, sophmore, Stanford. McCaffrey is not a captain, but you get the feeling he will be one day, based on the love his teammates have shown him. One example is their reaction to the news that he was a Heisman finalist:
What else do we know of McCaffrey's hard work, integrity, and perseverance? For one thing, he's earned stripes as a scholar athlete from the National Football Foundation. He's also served a two-week mission in Rwanda, helping to build a playground. What's more, his positional coach and teammates at Stanford gush about his work ethic and humility.
3. Deshaun Watson, sophomore, Clemson. In Watson's, case, the perseverance and hard work are easy to spot. Less than one year ago, he was recovering from surgery on a torn ACL. His integrity is also off the charts. He grew up in a house built by Habitat for Humanity. Since then, he has become a public advocate and volunteer for Habitat in South Carolina. Career-wise, outside of football, he has positioned himself to become a future spokesperson for the organization.
For all three Heisman finalists, you can see how their stories embody "diligence, perseverance, and hard work." For businesses hoping to highlight the same traits about themselves, there are plenty of lessons to learn.
First, you'd be wise to let your actions do the talking. Henry didn't leave Alabama when the going got tough. McCaffrey and Watson have devoted themselves to important nonprofit causes. That's the sort of behavior that others notice, especially when it comes from a leader or star performer.
The second lesson is the importance of thanking your teammates--something all three finalists gracefully did in their public statements after receiving Heisman recognition. Whether you're in business or football, your success is almost never the result of your work alone. If you acknowledge those who helped you, accolades are more likely to follow, both for yourself and for your entire team.