Heisman doesn’t always go to the best player

by Gary Shelton on November 10, 2016 · 0 comments

in College Sports in Florida, Florida State University, general, University of Florida

Dalvin Cook is a longshot for this year's Heisman./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Dalvin Cook is a longshot for this year's Heisman./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Thursday, 4 a.m.

I can't tell you how much I'm pulling for old what's-his-name in this year's Heisman Trophy race.

After all, the world needs more used car salesmen. You know, the guys with shiny trophies on their desks. They can sell you a Kia and tell you how good they used to be.

Why, if this year's front runner is good, he can be the next Paul Hornung, or the next Terry Baker, or the next Gary Beban. A break here or there, and he could be the next Andre Ware, or the next Rashaan Salaam or — dare he dream? — the next Gino Torretta. How about Eric Crouch? Or Mark Ingram? Or Johnny Manziel?

You can go on for a while if you want. The Heisman winners are a room of empty suits.

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And that's the thing about the Heisman Trophy. It is absolutely the most essential trophy on the planet, and it has absolutely no reason to be. As awards go, it should be ranked somewhere between the Midwest Insurance Salesman of the Year and the new NFL Decoder Ring.

It's voted on far too early, and it usually goes to the wrong guy. There's an army of palookas who have won the Heisman … some of them who played for Army.

But we love the Heisman, because we l know about the Heisman. You probably can't name the winner of the Academy Award for last  year's Best Picture (Spotlight), or the AL Cy Young winner (Dallas Keuchel, or Dallas from Houston as he's called), or the NFL MVP (Cam Newton). But you can name every Heisman winner since Jay Berwanger broke off tackle for a gain of three. The biggest reason the Heisman is a big deal this year is because the Heisman was a big deal last  year.

The year, the award is expected to go to Lamar Jackson (I knew his name; everyone knows his name). Sure, it's better to win it than not to. But it doesn't guarantee a thing. But Jackson would probably pick one Heisman over a dozen other quarterback awards.

A few facts about the Heisman:

– In three years, Army's Glenn Davis never finished lower than second. Teammate Doc Blanchard never finished lower than fourth. In those six seasons, neither of them ever had a 1,000 yard season.

– Tim Tebow, often maligned, finished in the top five three straight seasons. No quarterback has ever done that.

– Peyton Manning was in the top 10 three straight years. He never won it.

– Hornung threw 13 interceptions and guided Notre Dame to two wins the year he won it. Jim Brown was fifth.

– Lawrence Taylor never won it. Neither did Dick Butkus, J.J. Watt, Derrick Brooks or Deion Sanders.

A story: Back in 2000, I wrestled with my Heisman vote. It was that close between FSU's Chris Weinke and Oklahoma's Josh Heupel. So I got the bright idea that I would vote for whoever won their game in the Orange Bowl against each other.

And I did. The problem was, it was weeks after the ballots were due. But Heupel's team won, and I thought he deserved the vote.

The Heisman Committee was not amused. I lost my vote that day.

There are times I wake up weeping over it.

The thing that all of us need to remember is this: It's a college award. I think it's fine that Tebow won it and was in the top five three times; he was an iconic player. I think Tommie Frazier should have won (he didn't) because he was a great college player.

But there are years it seems that the voters are throwing darts at a board.

So why is it so prestigious? Well, sometimes, a great player does win it. Barry Sanders. Bo Jackson. Herschel Walker. Earl Campbell. And no one has hype like the Heisman. You ever see a player pose for the Davey O'Brien Award? The Bronco Nagurski?

Usually, however, it goes to either a quarterback or a running back on one of the elite teams. And usually, that guys turns out to be a bit player in the pros.

A look at the winners, and other choices the voters could have had.

Year         Winner                                   Another Option

1935    Jay Berwanger, Chicago           Joe Stydahar, West Virginia

1936    Larry Kelly, Yale                        Sammy Baugh, TCU

1937     Clint Frank, Yale                      Alex Wojciechowski, Fordham

1938     Davey O'Brien, TCU               Sid Luckman, Columbia

1939     Nile Kinnock, Iowa                 George McAffee, Duke

1940    Tom Harmon, Michigan        Tony Canadeo, Gonzaga

1941     Bruce Smith, Minnesota        Bill Dudley, Virginia

1942    Frank Sinkwich, Georgia       Bucko Kilroy, Temple

1943    Angelo Bertelli, Notre Dame  Otto Graham, Northwestern

1944    Les Horvath, Notre Dame      Elroy Hirsh, Michigan

1945    Doc Blanchard, Army             Marion Motley, Nevada

1946    Glenn Davis, Army                  Charlie Trippi, Georgia

1947    Johnny Lujack, Notre Dame Chuck Bednarik, Penn

1948    Doak Walker, SMU                 Norm Van Brocklin, Oregon

1949    Leon Hart, Notre Dame         Charlie Justice, North Carolina

1950    Vic Janowicz, Ohio State       Y.A. Tittle, LSU

1951    Dick Kazmaier, Princeton      Gino Marchetti, San Francisco

1952   Billy Vessels, Oklahoma        Doug Atkins, Tennessee

1953   John Lattner, Notre Dame   Ken McAfee, Alabama

1954   Alan Ameche, Wisconsin      Johnny Unitas, Louisville

1955   Howard Cassady, Ohio State   Lenny Moore, Penn State

1956   Paul Hornung, Notre Dame    Jim Brown, Syracuse

1957    John David Crow, Texas A&M  Ray Nitschke, Illinois

1958    Pete Dawkins, Army                   Paul Lowe, Oregon State

1959    Billy Cannon, LSU                      Jim Otto, Miami

1960   Joe Bellino, Navy                       Deacon Jones, South Carolina St.

1961    Ernie Davis, Syracuse               Merlin Olson, Utah State

1962    Terry Baker, Oregon State       Lee Roy Jordan, Alabama

1963    Roger Staubach, Navy              Paul Warfield, Ohio State

1964     John Huarte, Notre Dame      Dick Butkus, Illinois

1965     Mike Garrett, USC                    Tommy Nobis, Texas

1966    Steve Spurrier, Florida             Floyd Little, Syracuse

1967    Gary Beban, UCLA                   Larry Csonka, Syracuse

1968    O.J. Simpson, USC                   Ted Hendricks, Miami

1969    Steve Owens, Oklahoma         Jack Tatum, Ohio State

1970    Jim Plunkett, Stanford           Archie Manning, Ole Miss

1971     Pat Sullivan, Auburn              Franco Harris, Penn State

1972    Johnny Rogers, Nebraska    Bert Jones, LSU

1973    John Capeletti, Penn State  Jack Lambert, Kent State

1974   Archie Griffin, Ohio State    Randy White, Maryland

1975   Archie Griffin, Ohio State    Lee Roy Selmon, Oklahoma

1976   Tony Dorsett, Pitt                  Ricky Bell, USC

1977    Earl Campbell, Texas            Doug Williams, Grambling

1978    Billy Sims, Oklahoma           Joe Montana, Notre Dame

1979    Charles White, USC              Anthony Munoz, USC

1980    George Rogers, South Carolina Hugh Green, Pitt

1981    Marcus Allen, USC                Lawrence Taylor, North Carolina

1982    Herschel Walker, Georgia   John Elway, Stanford

1983    Mike Rozier, Nebraska         Steve Young, BYU

1984    Doug Flutie, Boston College    Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State

1985    Bo Jackson, Auburn               Charles Haley, James Madison

1986   Vinny Testaverde, Miami      Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma

1987   Tim Brown, Notre Dame       Thurman Thomas, Oklahoma State

1988   Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State    Deion Sanders, FSU

1989   Andre Ware, Houston                     Emmitt Smith, Florida

1990   Ty Detmer, BYU                               Brett Favre, Southern Mississippi

1991   Desmond Howard, Michigan         Steve Emtman, Washington

1992   Gino Torretta, Miami                      Marshall Faulk, San Diego St.

1993   Charlie Ward, FSU                          Larry Allen, Sonoma State

1994   Rashaan Salaam, Colorado           Derrick Brooks, FSU

1995   Eddie George, Ohio State               Tommy Frazier, Nebraska

1996   Danny Wuerffel, Florida              Warrick Dunn, FSU

1997   Charles Woodson, Michigan         Peyton Manning, Tennessee

1998   Ricky Williams, Texas                   Donovan McNabb, Syracuse

1999   Ron Dayne, Wisconsin                 Drew Brees, Purdue

2000  Chris Weinke, FSU                     LaDanian Tomlinson, TCU

2001   Eric Crouch, Nebraska              Julius Peppers, North Carolina

2002   Carson Palmer, USC                 Troy Palomalu, USC

2003   Jason White, Oklahoma          Larry Fitzgerald, Pitt

2004   Matt Leinart, USC                    Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma

2005   Reggie Bush, USC (vacated)  Vince Young, Texas

2006   Troy Smith, Ohio State           Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech

2007   Tim Tebow, Florida                  Darrelle Revis, Pitt

2008   Sam Bradford, Oklahoma      Clay Matthews, USC

2009   Mark Ingram, Alabama           Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

2010   Cam Newton, Auburn              Von Miller, Texas A&M

2011   Robert Griffin III, Baylor         J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

2012   Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M  Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

2013   Jamies Winston, FSU               Derek Carr, Fresno State

2014   Marcus Mariota, Oregon          Amari Cooper, Alabama

2015   Derrick Henry, Alabama           Deshaun Watson, Clemson

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