You'll believe a man can fly.

That was the tagline on the poster for the 1978 "Superman" movie starring Christopher Reeve.

That was also the first thought that popped into my head when I saw Jonathan Allen launch himself airborne to sack Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight in October.

I believe that Allen, the University of Alabama's senior defensive lineman, is the best college football player in the country this year.

That's why I voted for him for the Heisman Trophy.

Truth is, I knew when I cast my vote last Monday that the young man from Leesburg, Va., really didn't have a chance to win the sport's most coveted individual award, but that really didn't bother me. Defensive players stand little or no chance of winning the Heisman, and that's a shame; but my task is to vote for the player whom I believe most merits the award, so that's what I did.

My methodology for voting, since I first was honored with the opportunity to vote for the Heisman in 1993, has been to vote for the best player I see with my own eyes. Covering Alabama, and the SEC, usually gives me a chance to see someone deserving. That doesn't mean that player is always going to have a shot — I've voted for quarterbacks and running backs, of course, but also defenders and offensive linemen — but it does mean I've actually seen more than some statistics and a few highlights of the player who gets my vote.

This year, Allen was that guy.

In the span of the last week, he has won the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy — both of which go to the top defensive player in the land — as well as the Ted Hendricks Award, which honors the collegiate game's best defensive end.

That goes along with a bundle of All-America and All-SEC honors.

Allen has earned the hardware. His statistics — 15 quarterback hurries, 8.5 sacks among his 13 tackles for loss, 56 total tackles, a couple of fumbles returned for touchdowns — are impressive, especially on a best-in-the-nation defense that forces him to compete for stops with the likes of Reuben Foster, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, Shaun Dion Hamilton and a host of other standouts.

His real value, however, lies in how disruptive he is: how often he draws double-team blocking, and how often he still makes a play. The website does a lot of film breakdown and analysis, and determined that Allen leads all collegiate interior linemen in quarterback pressures — counting sacks, quarterback hurries and hits on quarterbacks — and ranked him in the top three nationally in productivity on both run and pass plays.

It's a shame that Allen never really stood a chance to win the Heisman Trophy. He would tell you that he'd much rather win another national championship than he would an individual award, but there's no reason he shouldn't at least have had a realistic chance to earn it regardless of what position he plays, or on which side of the ball.

The Heisman ballot also has spots for voters to recognize second and third place. I voted Louisville's Lamar Jackson second and Clemson's Deshaun Watson in the No. 3 slot. Both quarterbacks are outstanding players and did remarkable things this season.

From my perspective, Allen outshines them both.

Because I believe a man can fly. I saw it with my own eyes.


Reach Tommy Deas at or at 205-722-0224.