NEW YORK — Charlie Ward, who ran away from defenders all season, ran away with the Heisman Trophy on Saturday.
The elusive Florida State quarterback won college football's most prestigious award by the second-largest margin ever. Ward beat Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler by 1,622 points, trailing only O.J. Simpson's 1,750-point victory over Leroy Keyes in 1968.
"It's an honor. I'll always cherish it," Ward said. "Maybe in 10 years it will sink in."
Although Simpson won by more points, Ward received the highest percentage of first-place votes and points in the Heisman's 59-year history. Ward got 91% of the first-place votes, topping the previous record of 85% by 1991 winner Desmond Howard of Michigan.
Ward, leader of the nation's highest-scoring offense and top-ranked team, is the first Heisman winner from Florida State or the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Ward's mother and father attended the ceremony at the Downtown Athletic Club. Ward dedicated the trophy to his late grandfathers.
"I tried to stay as team-oriented as possible," Ward said. "I'm not a guy who wants all the attention, but for some reason, I get it."
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior from Thomasville, Ga., completed nearly 70% of his passes for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He also ran for 339 yards and four touchdowns.
But Ward isn't a player who can be measured merely by statistics. His amazing ability to dodge tacklers, make big plays and keep cool under pressure left opponents bewildered and brought Florida State to the brink of its first national championship.
Ward swept all six voting regions, receiving 740 first-place votes and 2,310 points in balloting by the media and former Heisman winners. Shuler got 10 first-place votes and 688 points, and Alabama all-purpose star David Palmer finished third with 16 firsts and 292 points.
Shuler and Palmer also attended the ceremony.
"He should have won it because he had a great season and he has a chance to lead his team to the national championship," Palmer said of Ward.
San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk, who was runner-up last year to Heisman winner Gino Torretta, finished fourth. He was followed by Boston College quarterback Glenn Foley, Northern Illinois running back LeShon Johnson, UCLA receiver J.J. Stokes, Michigan running back Tyrone Wheatley, Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer and Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier.