DeKALB – A year ago at this time, Jordan Lynch wasn't exactly a household name.
Northern Illinois fans knew about the quarterback who had seen time backing up Chandler Harnish in 2010 and 2011. The question was, could he replace Harnish, the 2011 Mid-American Conference MVP?
Lynch did that. And then some.
One season later, Lynch has his own MAC MVP trophy. He broke four NCAA records and 14 NIU marks. The Chicago native became the first player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and run for more than 1,500 and was an Associated Press All-American selection as an all-purpose player.
Now, fans and media members aren't asking who No. 6 is. There is no concern whatsoever about NIU's quarterback. In the school's preseason media guide, five pages are dedicated to Lynch. He seemingly is on every preseason watch list there is (six, to be exact).
In late June, NIU started its own Heisman Trophy campaign for Lynch, who finished seventh in the voting a season ago, launching JordanLynchfor6.com. NIU's media relations department even sent out "Jordan Lynch for 6" lunchboxes to Heisman Trophy voters and media members.
There's been a ton of hype for Lynch. However, the way Lynch operates, he doesn't let all the outside stuff get to him. The only thing different this year is the fact he has 14 starts under his belt and an experienced offensive line coming back, not to mention other weapons in starting tailback Akeem Daniels and speedy wideout Tommylee Lewis.
When Lynch is being interviewed, you never would know he finished seventh for the Heisman last year. He's no different than he was before the record-breaking 2012 season, and Lynch seems to have no problem deflecting all the talk.
"It's really easy, actually. I don't even bring up the Heisman or actually think about it until you guys ask me questions," Lynch said during NIU's media day at the beginning of fall camp. "I just have to stay humble and stay hungry. That's the only way to win the Heisman, win games. Stay hungry, stay humble, take one game at a time."
Could Lynch actually top last year's numbers? He had 4,953 total yards and 44 touchdowns, so it certainly won't be easy.
How could Lynch possibly be better than last year?
Huskies coach Rod Carey, who ran the team's dominating attack last season before being promoted to the top spot the day the team's Orange Bowl bid was announced, said Lynch has gotten better at the little things.
"His drop, his mechanics when he's holding the ball, his footwork when he's throwing right and when he's throwing left," Carey said. "His understanding mentally where he's suppposed to go with the ball, what his reads are."
NIU's first-year offensive coordinator, Bob Cole, who worked with the team's quarterbacks last year and still has the title of quarterbacks coach, said Lynch is more into studying film and learning about defenses.
Lynch said he's tried to focus on his footwork, and realizes he has to be a more traditional quarterback at times and make throws in the pocket.
One goal Cole and Lynch have is to see him improve his completion percentage. Lynch completed 60.2 percent of his passes a year ago, and they want the number to be up to 70 percent, something Cole says can happen with more knowledge and experience.
"Just help him with who he's reading, where the easy throws are and that type of thing," Cole said. "Recognize defenses and where the weaknesses are in the coverage. Getting to see that a little quicker."
Lynch threw the ball well last year and only had six interceptions. This summer, sophomore receiver Angelo Sebastiano has seen a player whose arm has only gotten better.
"You could tell that he's put in a lot of work with his throwing mechanics. He's not only been able to throw the ball on a line on a rocket when he's rolling out and things like that, but he's also got great touch," Sebastiano said. "He's been really working on it, and I think he's done so, so that when people key on the run game and stack the box, he's able to make those touch passes and really beat the defense behind him, so we're a well-rounded offense.
Should Lynch start the year off with more eye-popping stats and an upset over Iowa in the season opener, Lynch no doubt will be answering more and more questions about the Heisman Trophy.
And he probably will respond the same way he always has.
Realistically, Lynch winning the Heisman is a long shot, as it is for any non-BCS player. The last player from a mid-major program to take home the statue was BYU QB Ty Detmer in 1990.
A ton of things would have to go Lynch's way for him to win the Heisman, or even be a finalist. Hawaii QB Colt Brennan took third in the Heisman voting in 2007 – his team finished the regular season unbeaten and went on to play in the Sugar Bowl. BYU went 10-2 in 1990 and the Cougars were in the Top 25 all season.
One thing Lynch did say is that he's not going to win the Heisman if NIU doesn't win games. If Lynch is in the Heisman conversation at the beginning of December, victories will be a big reason.
"I'm not trying to match any numbers I did last year," he said. "The biggest thing I'm doing is going out there and winning games. When I win games, everything will take care of itself."
Last season's 18-17 loss to Iowa at Soldier Field was the only blemish on the Huskies' regular-season slate. Lynch completed only 37 percent of his passes that afternoon and threw for a season-low 54 yards.
During fall camp, the Huskies have kept stressing that all they're focused on is Iowa, which will host the Huskies on Saturday in Iowa City.
"The main thing, we all set as a goal in particular, all we care about now is being 1-0," Cole said. "We don't care about a lunch box or Heisman hype. [Lynch] cares about winning football games and so do we."