Editor’s note: ESPN will telecast of the 78th annual Heisman Trophy Presentation presented by Nissan on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 8 p.m. ET. The live telecast, from the Best Buy Theater in New York, also will be available on WatchESPN, ESPN Mobile TV and ESPN Radio. The three finalists for the award are senior quarterback Collin Klein (Kansas State), red-shirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and senior linebacker Manti Te’o (Notre Dame).
Front Row caught up with Ware to ask him to reflect on what winning the award means.
What was the Heisman experience like for you?
Imagine having your biggest dream come true and multiply it by 10. Thats what it feels like. There was very little pressure other than to deliver on Saturdays and help my team win. We were on probation that year for some nonsense that happened when most of our team was in elementary school. So, the exposure for our university was outstanding. No one from a school on probation had ever won the Heisman, so that’s what helped remove the pressure. Just that thought helped to keep things in perspective and focus on my job and commitment to our team.
What would you tell this year’s nominees about the Heisman ceremony?
I would tell them to enjoy every minute of the process and of the evening. Win or not, it will be an experience they will remember the rest of their lives.
And what would you tell the winner?
The winner I would tell, “Congratulations, and your life has changed forever. You are no longer the person you entered that room as, you are now and forever a Heisman Trophy Winner.” With that comes a great deal of responsibility and commitment. It’s a huge responsibility to uphold just what the trophy stands for, commitment, honor and integrity. Honor those that have won the trophy before you by living your life the right way so that those who follow you will have an example to follow. Do it with integrity, so those of us far away will be proud to call you one of our brothers.
What were you thinking when they read your name out as the winner?
When my name was called as that year’s winner, it took all I had to hold it together. I was totally blown away. The reason being, I realized that moment wasn’t just about me but a lot of people that helped mold me into the person I am. It was about a university that gave me the stage to do what I loved to do and trusted that I would do it the right way. Coaches that not only coached me but played a father figure role to a young man that lost his father at a very early age. It was my turn to give thanks to all who helped me. I am also proud to say I was the first African-American quarterback to win the award.
Where do you keep your Heisman? And where will you be watching the ceremony Saturday night?
My Heisman is on display in my living room here at home. It’s in a place where those who visit can have a piece of my past and enjoy what we accomplished as a team in ’89. It always amazes me to see the look on someone’s face when they are stopping by for a job of some sort. They have no idea until they see the trophy, yet they know right away what they are seeing. I will be home with my family and friends this year watching the announcement on ESPN and welcoming in a new brother.