Could a Canadian win the 1985 Heisman Trophy as America's outstanding college football player? Given the 10th-place finish by Washington State's Rueben Mayes in last year's election, that's a possibility, even if an outside one. Mayes, a senior from North Battleford, Saskatchewan, broke two NCAA rushing records and was runner-up to Ohio State's Keith Byars for national rushing honors.
He set single- and two-game rushing marks of 366 and 573 yards, production figures that help explain how the Cougars could give up 83 total points in back-to-back games and still win them both (50-41 over Oregon State and 47-42 over Stanford).
The Washington State coaches have established something of a Canadian pipeline, with seven Canadians, including four starters, on last year's team. Head coach Jim Walden and an assistant played professionally north of the border.
``We didn't know if he had the knowledge or the talent to play Pacific-10 football, but he had character,'' says Walden. ``He was behind the other kids in development, but he worked harder than anybody else.''
With the second- and third-?place Heisman vote getters returning, Mayes certainly has his work cut for him. And as if having Byars and Brigham Young's Robbie Bosco back isn't challenge enough, Reuben will have to contend with Auburn's Bo Jackson and Navy's Napoleon McCallum.
Until injured, Jackson and McCallum were thought to be serious candidates for the '84 award. Jackson returned for Auburn's last few games, but McCallum sat out the remainder of what appeared to be his senior season. Navy, however, is permitting McCallum to make up his lost season this fall as the first``red-shirted'' player in academy history. While red-shirting is common at many schools, Navy has never before kept players in school a fifth year for the sake of football.
As for Mayes, he will get at opportunity for some national TV exposure when the Turner Broadcasting System airs Washington State's game with Oregon Aug. 31. The Cougars generally don't receive too much television coverage, so they were willing to move up this contest from Nov. 9.