Heisman winner Jayden Daniels of LSU holds his trophy at...

Heisman winner Jayden Daniels of LSU holds his trophy at the Marriott Marquis on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023 Credit: Ed Murray

Jayden Daniels used to watch the Heisman Trophy ceremony on TV as a kid in California.

“I’d seen guys like Cam Newton and RGIII win it,” Daniels said Friday, referencing former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. “But kind of when I got older into high school, I’d seen Lamar Jackson win it. That kind of gave me more hope to go out there and achieve something like this.”

The LSU quarterback came to Manhattan as a Heisman finalist along with Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

Daniels’ hope turned into reality Saturday night inside Jazz at Lincoln Center as his name was added to the forever list of winners that began in 1935. He made it a reality with a fabulous fifth season, the second with the Tigers after three with Arizona State.

He finished with 503 first-place votes and 2,029 points from the 928 electors — 870 media members, 57 Heisman winners and one fan ballot.

“This is a dream come true,” Daniels said.

Penix placed second, receiving 292 first-place votes and 1,701 points in a system that gives three points for a first-place vote, two for a second and one for a third. Nix came in a distant third and Harrison was fourth.

Daniels joined Joe Burrow (2019) and Billy Cannon (1959) as LSU players to win the award.

Even though Daniels’ team lost three games this season, his numbers define a 6-4 player who has been a dual threat to wreak havoc.

Total offense? He’s No. 1 in the nation, accounting for 4,946 yards. That includes 606 in one gaudy game, a 52-35 win over Florida in November in which he became the first FBS quarterback to throw for at least 350 yards and rush for at least 200 in a game.

Touchdowns? He accounted for 50 of them.

Passing? He threw for 3,812 yards and 40 TDs with only four interceptions.

Running? He rushed for 1,134 yards and 10 TDs.

LSU coach Brian Kelly praised his character and his talent, calling Daniels “the most exciting player in college football.”

The mobile style stems from the fast and elusive Daniels’ younger days.

“My favorite quarterback growing up was Michael Vick,” Daniels said. “What he was doing at Atlanta, you’re growing up and you’re watching that. And from there, I played flag football growing up. So running around and stuff, it kind of just translated to regular football.”

Penix posted an FBS-leading 4,218 passing yards for his 13-0, College Football Playoff-bound team.

“I would say, for me, I wouldn’t be here without the guys around me, for sure, my teammates and my coaches,” said Penix, who showed his appreciation by having their names put on the lining of his purple suit jacket.

But this was Daniels’ night.

The winning quarterback passed along some inspiration in the closing moments of his speech.

“I want to dedicate this award to every boy and girl who has a dream,” Daniels said. “With faith and hard work, you never know what’s possible.

“They said I was too skinny, so I added weight. They said I relied on my legs a little too much, so I went to work, completed all those passes, had the season I had. They said I’m too quiet, so I became more vocal. I stepped out of my comfort zone. And now I’m here today.

“So what did I learn from all this? I learned how to block out the noise, that you could overcome any obstacle, and just be humble, be legendary and, most importantly, be joyful about what you do. And when you get knocked down, get back up, keep smiling and never give up on your dreams.”

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