DALLAS — If Lache Seastrunk could produce his own highlight reel, he would edit in a simple running play that he believes emphasizes his slick style in a single eight-second clip.
It happened last December, in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State, when the Baylor tailback took a handoff for an inside zone play, kicked it outside and sprinted free with an uncluttered field ahead of him.
He was crossing the Cowboys’ 45-yard-line when he tweaked his left hamstring. But he kept running — part glide, half awkward hop — on his one good leg. By the 10-yard line, Seastrunk was gimpy and stumbling. He finally fell into the end zone, collapsing flat on his stomach, as five Oklahoma State defenders closed in.
That play gave credence to Seastrunk’s statement that he made later in the month, as Baylor prepared for the Holiday Bowl, when the brash tailback proclaimed himself the fastest player in college football.
That is also when the former University of Oregon player announced his intentions to win the 2013 Heisman Trophy.
His words caused a minor stir during bowl season, then faded with the attention given to more prominent games.
But they were renewed last week when Seastrunk, two Baylor teammates and head coach Art Briles attended the Big 12 media days in Dallas to promote the league and all things green and gold.
Yes, the Heisman came up. A lot. Seastrunk, who sported dark-framed glasses and a blue headband to pull back his braids, patiently and sometimes defiantly answered questions about college football’s most coveted chunk of bronze.
“Why should I regret it? I said it. You want me to take it back,” said Seastrunk (whose first name is pronounced “Lake”). “People are going to be negative; they’re always going to have their negative comments. If I believe in my heart, it can happen.”
As a true freshman at Oregon in 2010, Seastrunk made the Ducks’ travel team but did not play and was redshirted. He transferred to Baylor in August 2011 and lost a year of eligibility, sitting out the 2011 season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirements.
With the start of preseason training camp days away, Seastrunk, a junior, is officially in the Heisman conversation, albeit in the background, thanks to the way he ended last season.
He is now listed as a 25-1 Heisman shot, with oddsmakers believing him to be the Big 12’s best candidate. Seastrunk is hoping to keep the Heisman in the Lone Star State family, following Baylor’s Robert Griffin III (2011) and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (2012).
And Heisman chatter also is cool with Briles, whose Bears received two first-place votes in the Big 12 media poll — the first time Baylor has received a first-place mention. If Seastrunk, who was named the conference’s preseason offensive player of the year, was the reason, then so be it.
“Lache has some qualities that give him an opportunity,” Briles said. “He’s a dynamic football player that’s very engaging, and those are good qualities to have. They help you with the voters. I’d much rather have players wanting to win the Heisman than clap for the one that does.”
Baylor has no immediate plans for a Heisman campaign launch. This time two years ago, the Baylor sports information department already had sent out a special “RG3 for Heisman” trading card to a mailing list of about 700 potential Heisman voters, and a special website promoting Griffin was in the works.
Seastrunk’s late-season numbers were amazing. Although he split carries with Glasco Martin, he averaged 138.5 yards per game and more than 8 yards per carry over his final six games.
He starts this season on a roll, carrying a streak of four 100-yard rushing games. Early mock NFL drafts for next April list Seastrunk as the top tailback prospect available, with a grade of first or second round. Coincidentally, NFLdraftscout.com puts Seastrunk ahead of his former Oregon teammate, fellow Heisman candidate De’Anthony Thomas.
Seastrunk seems to desire to be a Heisman afterthought, at least initially, because he sees that shoulder chip as motivation. And perhaps the charismatic Briles uses the perceived slight as fuel for speeches to his team.
“Everybody always belittles Baylor,” Seastrunk said.
But will they be belittling by December?