Houston's Got A Heisman Hopeful In Kolb

July 30, 2006

By Adam Caparell




Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
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Kevin Kolb wants to be a legend at Houston.


He wants the prestige, the honor, of being mentioned in the same breath as other great Cougar quarterbacks of years past like Andre Ware and David Klingler. Especially Ware.


After all, it was Ware who became the one and only Cougar to win the Heisman Trophy in 1989.


And with the expectations of a big senior season and an improved Houston team, Kolb has quietly become an under the radar Heisman candidate.


"We've only had one here before," Houston coach Art Briles said. "I think he's got as good a shot as anyone in the nation."


While his coach thinks he has a Heisman candidate on his hands, the candidate himself has a hard time buying into the notion that he could be crowned the best player in the nation.


"You don't realize that certain people think of you as that type of player," Kolb said. "I certainly don't."


"The way I [grew up], the way I was raised, I never pictured myself as a Heisman Trophy winner," Kolb said. "But I guess I'm just trying to be a little humble about the situation. I know that I have to win football games before any of that can come."


Throwing for 3,258 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, Kolb led Houston to a 6-6 record and its second bowl game in three years. It was an "average" season in Kolb's estimation. But those numbers were better than Penn State's Michael Robinson, who finished fifth in last year's Heisman voting. Kolb threw for more yards than runner-up Vince Young of Texas and top-10 finisher Drew Olson of UCLA. And they're better than the stats that some of this year's Heisman favorites put up last season, like Ohio State's Troy Smith and Florida's Chris Leak.


But Leak, Smith and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn - arguably the favorite to win this year's Heisman - all have something Kolb doesn't. That's exposure, which Kolb severely lacks because he plays in Conference USA.


Quinn, Smith and Leak will be playing on national TV just about every week. Kolb plays in a non-BCS conference, for a smaller university that will play just two nationally televised games this year.


It puts Kolb at a distinct disadvantage. It's why he knows he's a dark horse candidate. But it doesn't bother him. In fact, he relishes coming in under the radar.


"That's the kind of feeling I have," Kolb said. "I go to a smaller university. I know I'm not at one of those Top 20 elite universities. But I like that."


Briles thinks differently.


"I don't know that he's under the radar," Briles said. "I know there are some politics involved in the voting and everything involved that goes on with it. But that's out of my control."


Briles, who's known of Kolb since his first days in high school, says the Stephenville, Texas native has the whole package.


"Intelligence, his arm - he has a great arm - and he has the ability to beat you with that arm or his feet," Briles said. "He has everything you're looking for as a coach."


Briles thinks the Cougars would have to go undefeated with Kolb throwing for 3,500 yards-plus for him to win the Heisman.


Kolb said he'd have to win double-digit games and produce big numbers in big games -- like when Houston faces Miami Sept. 30 and the top teams in Conference USA -- to even be a worthy consideration. Throwing upwards of 3,700 yards and cutting down on interceptions, Kolb said, would be a start.


"I think it's really hard," Kolb said. "We have to do something special. I know it comes team first and then the individual stuff will come."


Right now, his life is about constant motion. He goes non-stop between summer school, his summer job and football. Kolb has almost no time for himself.


"But I like it that way," he said. "I like it where it's all the way, full throttle, all the time. That kind of fits my personality, my lifestyle."


His time is being constrained even more with the increased media requests, publicity and promotional activities the university has him participating in. Houston - like other schools do for their Heisman candidates - has made a web site promoting Kolb's candidacy.


"It's a little flattering," Kolb said. "I think it's kind of cool. I like it all. It doesn't overwhelm me or anything like that. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I want to do all the stuff that I can."


He even found some time to get engaged to his girlfriend, Whitney. It's his fiancée's place where Kolb goes to get away from it all. 


"Just to be able to go over to her apartment in the evening - not dealing with roommates, not dealing with the party atmosphere - just to be able to come home and relax, stay focused on what I'm trying to do, it just calms everything down," Kolb said. "Everything is a little high gear around here. When you get home, it's just me and her. It's just so much better to cook some dinner, do some homework and just lay around."


Kolb doesn't rest much being the owner of the most consecutive starts (36) among Division I-A quarterbacks. He's also zeroing in on becoming the all-time leader in just about every offensive and passing category in Houston history.


Kolb even has a chance to move into second place on Houston's all-time TD pass list ahead of Ware - who won the Heisman despite not appearing on television because the school was on probation - with 21 TD passes this season.


Ware still looms large over the program. All over Houston fans' rooms, over fifteen years since he last played for the Cougars, Kolb still sees tons of Ware memorabilia.


He wants it to be replaced with pictures and posters of himself, especially ones of him holding the Heisman. He can only imagine what winning it would be like.


"That puts you in a category that no one can ever take away," Kolb said. "You can always be associated with that. If I go into a job interview in twenty years and somebody will say, `Oh, you're that Heisman Trophy winner.'"


A title like that makes you a legend.



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