I don't have a vote in the final balloting but, after six games, I have to believe that the leading candidates for the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year award are quarterbacks Miles Osei of Prospect and Tommy Rees of Lake Forest, running backs Jahwon Akui of St. Rita and Matt Perez of Maine South and offensive lineman Christian Lombard of Fremd.
Lombard? An offensive lineman? Player of the Year?
"No offensive lineman in the Midwest is playing better than Lombard right now, not even Seantrel Henderson, the No. 1 player in the nation," said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. "He is 6-6 and weighs 295 pounds and has cut his body fat down to 7 percent this year. He looks like a defensive lineman. He has a nasty attitude that offensive linemen need, that a lot of them don't have."
But an offensive lineman hasn't won the award since 1955.
Few could argue that Maine South's Charlie Goro or Naperville North's Jordan Tassio or Wheaton Warrenville South's Dan Dierking or Morris' John Dergo weren't worthy of winning the Player of the Year award in the last four years.
Two quarterbacks and two running backs.
The last linemen to earn the prize were Weber's Tim Marshall in 1979 and St. Francis de Sales' Chris Boskey in 1977. Both were defensive standouts.
And the only linebackers who achieved the honor since Dick Butkus in 1959 were Joliet Catholic's Chris Jeske in 2004, St. Rita's John Foley in 1985 and Mount Carmel's Tony Furjanic in 1981.
Sounds like a high school version of the Heisman Trophy, which has honored quarterbacks for eight of the last nine years. The last lineman to be recognized as the top player in college football was Notre Dame end Leon Hart in 1949. In fact, an interior lineman or linebacker has never been selected since the Heisman was originally awarded in 1935.
Lemming has seen them all and he gives Osei an edge.
"This is the year of the quarterback in the Chicago area and Osei and Rees are the two best," Lemming said. "If the Big 10 doesn't take Osei, they are making a mistake. He is another (former West Virginia star) Pat White. If you are looking for a quarterback to run the spread, there is no one better than Osei. If you are looking for a dropback passer, Rees is the choice."
The problem is we are hung up on statistics. Quarterbacks and running backs have them. Offensive linemen don't have them. Maybe that's why somebody came up with the idea of tallying pancake blocks, a statistic that Lombard specializes in. If Butkus couldn't win the Heisman as a senior at Illinois, it's hard to imagine how any lineman or linebacker could prevail in the voting.
Osei, Rees, Akui and Perez, a two-way player for the state's top-rated team, are legitimate candidates. Each boasts impressive statistics. It is so much easier to evaluate a player who has passed or rushed for 2,000 yards and looks good on a highlight film than it is to evaluate a lineman who blocks for him.
Somehow, some way, the system needs to be re-evaluated and revised to give everyone an equal opportunity. Or else why do running backs always go out of their way to credit their offensive line after they've scored the winning touchdown? Could they have scored without them? Surely, linemen aren't second-class citizens and shouldn't be treated as such.