The final three in the race for the most prestigious award in college football all claimed that their faith in God has helped them through tough times, based on comments retrieved firsthand from the Gospel Herald.
The Heisman, won by Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks, was shown in a Saturday night ceremony broadcasted on ESPN. Although he didn't say much, he elaborated in a press conference on how his faith assisted him in his football journey.
"It's really about me to find strength and courage," Mariota said. "If I'm not feeling myself, or if I've ever had any doubts, I find strength in it. My faith has just really helped me to where I am today."
According to ESPN, Mariota's win capped a three-year climb to college football's most prestigious individual award.
"I'm humbled to be standing here today," Mariota said shortly after he won the Heisman.
In his acceptance speech, he thanked his teammates, teachers, friends and his home state of Hawaii. However, he showed some emotions when it was time to thank his father and mother.
"I had to give thanks to so many people because where I am today, it's all due to those people," Mariota said in regards to his parents. "It's hard not to get emotional. It's been a long journey. My emotions got the best of me."
ESPN reported that Mariota, the first Hawaii native to win the Heisman, has accounted for a Pac-12 record 53 touchdowns (38 passing, 14 rushing and one receiving) while directing the Ducks' spread offense. In addition, he received twice as many points as second-place finisher running back Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin Badgers and receiver Amari Cooper of Alabama Crimson Tide, who finished in third place.
Although neither of them won the Heisman, both Cooper and Gordon credit their faith in God for getting them this far.
"As far as my personal growth, my faith has been tested many times," Cooper said. "I've faced adversity a lot, but I remain faithful. So if you remain faithful, and you don't quit, I believe that the Lord will bless you in all things. That's how my faith system works."
Gordon seemed to concur with Cooper's sentiment, noting that "having strong faith really builds you" and "builds your character." He gave credit to the Bible studies that happened before every game to keep him going both on and off the field.
"It gets tough sometimes trying to really connect with God when you just have so much stuff going on," Gordon said. "I think that Bible study kind of just brings me back to everything and I love it. I'm here to say that it really got me into it, and I've been going through it ever since for three years or four years now since I've been at college."
In an interview posted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mariota admitted that he wasn't always invested in God and Jesus Christ back in high school. However, ever since the Heisman winner started playing with Oregon and joined the FCA, his faith had "grown tremendously."
"Going through the challenges of the season, my faith has been the steadying force that's pushed me, along with my family, my friends and my teammates," Mariota told FCA. "We have high expectations as a program to go and win national championships. It's a huge pressure, but you learn a lot about yourself through it."
Mariota added that although he's "not perfect," he has found the encouragement to "continue to open up in my faith."
"However I play on the field, I know my faith will guide me. After sports, my faith will guide me," Mariota said. "As I've grown in my faith, that's something that's given me comfort. God has taught me that I can trust in Him.
"No matter what-whether things are good or bad-I know I can always trust in Him. And that has really allowed me to go All In for Him."