As the envelope was being ripped open to reveal the winner of this year‚Äôs Heisman Trophy, USC quarterback Matt Leinart tried to heed the advice that 2002 Heisman winner Carson Palmer had given him. ‚ÄúAct like they‚Äôre calling someone else,‚Äù Palmer, Leinart‚Äôs predecessor at USC, had told him. But they didn‚Äôt call someone else, leaving the usually cool quarterback flustered. ‚ÄúMy legs were weak,‚Äù Leinart said. ‚ÄúMy heart was beating 20 beats a second.‚Äù
The race was expected to be tight, but Leinart, who threw for 2,990 yards with 28 touchdowns, won handily. He topped five of the six voting regions--Oklahoma‚Äôs Adrian Peterson and Jason White beat him in the Southwest--and his 267 first-place votes put him 113 ahead of Peterson. Later Leinart celebrated at Manhattan‚Äôs Marquee, a hot spot favored by Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. Seated at a private table, he was joined by fellow finalists Reggie Bush, Alex Smith and Peterson as well as USC backup quarterbacks Brandon Hance and Billy Hart. (Peterson fit in easily with all the Trojans, whom he will see again Jan. 4 at the Orange Bowl.) ‚ÄúI‚Äôm still living in a dream,‚Äù said Leinart as he shook hands with club-goers. ‚ÄúIt feels like it‚Äôs never gonna end.‚Äù --Arash Markazi
JEFF ZELEVANSKY/REUTERS (LEINART)
After getting his trophy, Leinart celebrated in style.
ROBERT BECK (LEINART THROWING)