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Original Issue

Never a Doubt

USC’s cool QB wins the Heisman by a surprisingly wide margin

As the envelope was being ripped open to reveal the winner of this year’s Heisman Trophy, USC quarterback Matt Leinart tried to heed the advice that 2002 Heisman winner Carson Palmer had given him. “Act like they’re calling someone else,” Palmer, Leinart’s predecessor at USC, had told him. But they didn’t call someone else, leaving the usually cool quarterback flustered. “My legs were weak,” Leinart said. “My heart was beating 20 beats a second.”

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’s 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’s 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.) “I’m still living in a dream,” said Leinart as he shook hands with club-goers. “It feels like it’s never gonna end.” --Arash Markazi




After getting his trophy, Leinart celebrated in style.