How Did He NOT Win?
The NFL stars who didn't win the Heisman
It's the hardest thing for pro
football fans, who don't necessarily care about college football, to
understand. Why didn't Tom Brady win the Heisman? How about LaDainian
Tomlinson? He was great, right? John Elway, Joe Montana, and Dan Marion
didn't win a Heisman? Of course there's a major difference between
producing at the collegiate level and being a great pro. The Heisman
isn't supposed to go to the first pick in the NFL Draft; it's supposed
to go to the "most outstanding player" in a given season.
The Heisman is all about the top quarterback or running back in a given
year unless something wacky happens, but over the course of Heisman
history, in hindsight, there have been some extremely questionable
winners considering who the runner-ups were. Of course, everyone knows
that being a top pro prospect has nothing to do with winning the
Heisman, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few years when the
question has to be asked ... how did this guy not win?
Leinart was the aberration as the Heisman winner who went on
beat the runner-up in the national championship, and then he shocked the
world by not going pro early in a draft year desperate for quarterbacks
(Alex Smith to the 49ers No. 1 overall hasn't exactly worked out well).
Leinart was taken 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2006, but his
career so far has been defined more by questions about his commitment to
being a pro, a collarbone injury, and Kurt Warner, rather than anything
positive done on the field. Even though he hasn't set the world on fire
as a pro, that doesn't diminish Leinart's phenomenal college career.
Meanwhile, over his first two seasons, Adrian Peterson has become one of
the great young backs in the history of the NFL. The better question, as
opposed to why he didn't win the Heisman, is why did Peterson go seven
in the 2007 draft.
Arguably, Leinart has to be considered one of the top college
quarterbacks ever having thrown for 10,693 yards with 99 touchdown
passes, a BCS national title, an AP national title, and a near-miss
against Texas for a second BCS championship. Oh yeah, and the guy went
37-2. In 2004, Leinart threw 33 touchdown passes and just six interceptions and
he ran for three scores as the leader of devastating national champions.
Peterson came close in the Heisman race finishing second with 997 points
to Leinart's 1,325. Being a freshman didn't help Peterson's cause, and
splitting votes with Jason White, the Sooner quarterback who won the
Heisman the previous year, didn't help. Even so, Peterson's 1,925 yards
and 15 touchdowns were certainly Heisman worthy.
2003 Winner - Jason White, QB
How did the runner up not
win? ... Larry Fitzgerald, WR Pitt (2nd), Eli Manning, QB Ole Miss
White was a terrific story. He suffered two ACL injuries
and came back, and from out of nowhere, to bomb away for 3,846 yards and
40 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions as he led Oklahoma to the
national title game. However, his Sooners got blasted by Kansas State
35-7 in the Big 12 title game as he threw two interceptions, no
touchdown passes, and had his worst game of the year ... until the
national championship. White had a nightmare of a game against LSU
completing 35% of his throws with two interceptions as he was sacked
over and over again in the loss. Even with the Kansas State loss, the
numbers were impressive enough to get him the Heisman trophy, and he
went on to put up almost as strong a season in 2004, throwing for 3,205
yards with 35 touchdown passes and nine interceptions as he finished
third in the Heisman behind Matt Leinart and Adrian Peterson. However,
no one ever considered White a pro player of any sort. In a horrendous
year for pro quarterback prospects, White wasn't drafted in 2005.
Larry Fitzgerald was considered a can't miss pro prospect. Now he's well
on his way to the Hall of Fame after catching 413 passes for 5,692 yards
and 43 touchdowns just five years into his NFL career. He generated a
buzz in 2002 catching 69 passes for 1,005 yards with 12 touchdowns, and
then he went on to set NCAA records with a 92-grab, 1,672-yard, 22
touchdown 2003 season. Even though Fitzgerald was only a sophomore, and
a pure wide receiver (as opposed to a kick returner and a receiver), he
still came within an eyelash of winning the Heisman losing to White
1,481 to 1,353. Fitzgerald likely lost it on the last week of the
regular season as Antrel Rolle and Miami held him to 26 yards and a
touchdown on just three catches in a 28-14 Hurricane win.
Finishing third in the Heisman was Eli Manning, who completed 62% of his
throws for 3,600 yards and 29 touchdown passes as he carried Ole Miss to
a 10-3 season and a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State.
2000 Winner - Chris Weinke,
QB Florida State
How did the runner up not
win? ... Drew Brees, QB Purdue (3rd),
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB TCU (4th)
In one of the most debatable, most hotly contested
Heisman races ever, Weinke barely beat Oklahoma QB Josh Huepel 1,628 to
1,552 with Purdue's Drew Brees coming in third with 619 points and TCU's
LaDanian Tomlinson finishing fourth with 566.
Weinke set the table for his Heisman winning season by throwing 25
touchdown passes and 3,103 yards as he led the Seminoles to the national
championship. In 2000, before his Noles lost to Heupel's Sooners 13-2 in
the Orange Bowl, Weinke threw for 4,167 yards and 33 touchdown passes.
So why was the race so close? Age discrimination. Weinke had played six
years of minor league baseball, came back to play college football, and
won the Heisman at 28. He went on to be drafted by the Carolina Panthers
in the sixth round and had a little bit of success as a part-time
Brees led Purdue to the Rose Bowl, throwing for 3,668 yards and 26
touchdowns with 12 interceptions in 2000. Question marks about his
height, barely checking in at six feet, hurt his pro stock, but he was
taken with the first pick in the second round by San Diego. He's in the
midst of a Hall of Fame career as one of the NFL's top passers after
being traded to New Orleans. San Diego also drafted TCU's LaDainian
Tomlinson that year with the fifth overall pick. In 2000, he ran for
2,158 yards and 22 touchdowns highlighted by a 406-yard rushing day.
However, playing for TCU, in the WAC at the time, killed his Heisman
1999 Winner - Ron Dayne, RB
How did the runner up not win? ... Michael Vick, QB Virginia Tech
(3rd), Drew Brees, QB Purdue (4th), Chad Pennington, QB Marshall (5th)
There's no questioning this: Ron Dayne deserved the
Heisman. He finished his senior year as the NCAA's all-time rushing
leader and won the award going away. However, he has been a bust as a
pro, serving as a journeyman back after being taken with the 11th pick
overall by the New York Giants in 2000. The voting wasn't even close as
Dayne blew way Georgia Tech QB Joe Hamilton, but there were some
interesting future NFL stars who were down the list a bit.
Michael Vick turned in a scintillating freshman season at Virginia Tech
as he led the Hokies to the Sugar Bowl. While Peter Warrick and Florida
State won the national title, Vick had his coming out party as the star
of the show. He'd go on to be the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft. Vick
finished third, while Purdue's Drew Brees finished fourth, Marshall QB
Chad Pennington finished fifth, and Alabama RB Shaun Alexander finished
seventh. Virginia's Thomas Jones, who was a bust like Dayne early in his
pro career before picking it up late, finished eighth.
1996 Winner - Danny Wuerffel, QB
How did the runner up not win? ... Jake Plummer, QB Arizona State
(3rd), Orlando Pace, OT Ohio State (4th), Warrick Dunn, RB, Florida
State (5th), Peyton Manning, QB Tennessee (8th)
Wuerffel had to battle with Iowa State's Troy Davis for
the 1996 Heisman, winning just 1,363 to 1,174. Even though it was a
close race, Wuerffel was the year's signature player as he led Florida
to the national title
with one of the best years in college football history,
leading the offense to 46.6 points per game and 76 touchdowns. He was deadly accurate throwing for 39 scores and finishing
with a pass efficiency rating of 170.6. The Gator star was drafted
in the fourth round by the New Orleans Saints in 1997, but with a funky
throwing motion and questionable arm strength, he never made his mark.
Steve Spurrier tried to make his former quarterback an NFL starter with
the Washington Redskins, but it didn't happen.
Third in the race was Arizona State QB Jake Plummer, who led the Sun
Devils to comeback win after comeback win. However, his team fell just
short in the Rose Bowl, and in the national title chase, losing to
Orlando Pace and Ohio State. Pace, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997
NFL Draft, finished fourth in the voting, while Florida State RB Warrick
Dunn was fifth.
Further down the list, finishing eighth, was Tennessee QB Peyton
Manning, who completed 64% of his throws for 3,287 yards and 20
touchdowns as a junior.
1994 Winner - Rashaan Salaam, RB
How did the runner up not win? ... Steve McNair, QB Alcorn State
(3rd), Kerry Collins, QB Penn State (4th), Warren Sapp, DT Miami (6th)
Rasshaan Salaam won the 1994 Heisman with relative ease
as he became the fourth running back to rush for over 2,000 yards in a
season, highlighted by a 312-yard day against Texas. He left as a junior
and became the 21st pick overall by Chicago in 1995. He had mild success
until bad habits killed his career and his reputation.
Salaam won the Heisman, but Penn State's Ki-Jana Carter was acknowledged
as the best running back in the nation. He was the first overall pick by
Cincinnati, but he blew out his knee in his first appearance and was
never the same. Alcorn State's Steve McNair was one of the biggest
stories of the 1994 season after setting the NCAA career record for
total offense. He was taken third in the 1995 NF Draft by the Houston
Oilers, and he went on to carry the franchise into the Super Bowl when
it became the Tennessee Titans. Penn State's Kerry Collins was the fifth
pick in the draft by the Carolina Panthers after leading the
high-powered Nittany Lion offense to an unbeaten 1994 season and the
Rose Bowl. Miami DT Warren Sapp was taken 12th overall by the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers. The future Hall of Famer was sixth in the Heisman tally.
1992 Winner - Gino Torretta, QB
How did the runner up not win? ... Marshall Faulk, RB San Diego
Torretta's name has become synonymous with the concept of
a good college player who wins the Heisman because he happens to be on a
great team. He wasn't all that bad in 1992 throwing for 3,060 yards and 19
touchdowns with seven interceptions before the Sugar Bowl loss to
Alabama, but he was hardly considered a pro talent being taken in the
seventh round by Minnesota.
Meanwhile, San Diego State's Marshall Faulk didn't win the Heisman
because he wasn't a senior ... at least that was the general belief. Had
he been a senior and Torretta a sophomore, it likely would've been a
landslide the other way. The electrifying sophomore led the nation with
1,630 yards and 15 touchdowns despite being banged up over the second
half of the year. Torretta blew away Faulk when it came to first place
Heisman votes, but Faulk made it close overall by getting the most
second and third place votes.
1984 Winner - Doug Flutie, QB
How did the runner up not win? ... Bernie Kosar, QB Miami (4th),
Jerry Rice, WR Mississippi Valley State (9th)
Flutie was a no-brainer of a Heisman
winner in 1984 completing 233 of 386 passes for 3,454 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Of course, he had it all sealed up after his legendary Hail Mary throw
to beat Bernie Kosar and Miami in one of the great games in college
football history. Because of his height, or lack of it, he was shunned
by the NFL, for the most part, getting a little bit of time with the
Chicago Bears before going on to be one of the greatest players in CFL
history. He came back to the NFL and was great for the Buffalo Bills for
a few years, but he never turned out to be the NFL quarterback that
Kosar was. Of course, the best pro in the 1984 Heisman race came from
Mississippi Valley State. Jerry Rice wasn't a hotly recruited prospect,
but he finished his career with 310 passes for 4,856 yards and 51
touchdowns. He then went on to become the greatest NFL receiver of
1983 Winner - Mike Rozier, RB
How did the runner up not win? ... Steve Young, QB BYU
At the time there was no arguing with
Rozier winning the Heisman. He was the signature star from one of the
greatest offensive machines of all-time. He ran for 2,148 yards and 29 touchdowns averaging a whopping 7.8
yards per carry and breaking the 100-yard mark in all 11 regular
season games. He set the NCAA rushing record for yards in a season
and broke or tied several other marks. When it came time to turn
pro, Rozier decided to go to the new USFL where he had marginal success
before going to the NFL. While a decent pro, he was never close to the
player he was in college.
Meanwhile Steve Young was off in BYU setting NCAA records for accuracy
and efficiency. After originally starting out on defense, Young moved to
quarterback where he quickly grew into the job finishing his career with
7,733 yards and 56 touchdowns while rushing for 1,048 more yards with 18
scores. He was taken in a supplemental draft by Tampa Bay before being
traded to San Francisco. He went on to become a Hall of Fame quarterback
after finally taking over the starting job from Joe Montana.
1967 Winner - Gary Beban, QB UCLA
How did the runner up not win? ... O.J. Simpson, RB USC
The all-timer of Heisman blunders, Beban had a nice year for
UCLA, but not an elite one. He only threw for 1,359 yards with eight
touchdown passes and eight interceptions, but he had a great day on
national television against USC. There was one problem: O.J. The USC
junior tore off a legendary 64-yard touchdown dash to lead the Trojans
to the win. Simpson finished with 1,543 rushing yards and 16 total
scores. While Beban ran for 11 touchdowns, it wasn't like he was a
runner. Even so, Beban was a senior and Simpson a junior, so the voters
went with the solid career over the flashy season ... but just barely.
Beban won 1,968 to 1,722 before going on to have a cup of coffee in the
NFL with the Washington Redskins. Simpson won the 1968 Heisman in one of
the biggest landslides ever before going on to becoming one of the great
NFL players of all-time. GGG