There are times when I am so grateful to have been covering Florida football during its heyday and one of those times is this weekend.
Because this is Heisman weekend and I was lucky enough to be there for three of them – one Danny and two Tebows.
I consider it the biggest honor any athlete can get because it stays with you forever. There is a reason there is a Heisman house. I asked Steve Spurrier, who won it in 1966, about that and he said, “The biggest individual honor, yes. But you’d rather win SEC championships and national championships.”
But it got me to thinkin’ (Andy Griffith reference) about the history of the award and some interesting tidbits about the stiff-armed one. So, here we go with another Dooley’s Dozen: 12 things you need to know about the Heisman.
Tim Tebow made history twice
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That was in 2007, of course, when he became the first sophomore to win the Heisman. It just wasn’t done before Tebow put up incredible numbers a year after helping Florida win the national title.
But he also became the first – and so far the only player – to do so while wearing No. 15. He could be joined in the club by TCU’s Max Duggan, who also wears that number.
One more thing on the numbers
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Tebow was the only No. 15 (when the season began a lot of people thought that [autotag]Anthony Richardson[/autotag] would be in New York Saturday), but there have been three other 11s and three other 7s. Those are the numbers, of course, worn by [autotag]Steve Spurrier[/autotag] and [autotag]Danny Wuerffel[/autotag].
One of the No. 11s was Terry Baker, Oregon State’s only Heisman winner. One of the 7s was Eric Crouch, the Nebraska quarterback Gator fans blame for [autotag]Rex Grossman[/autotag] not winning it in 2001.
Florida’s quarterbacks found out in different places
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In the old days, back before ESPN turned it into an hour-long infomercial, the Heisman was given out before the season was over. Spurrier received a call to come to the office of UF president J. Wayne Reitz and figured out what was up. UF still had a regular season game against Miami (and lost).
Wuerffel was mispronounced into history (“Danny War-feel”) at the Downtown Athletic Club, the home of the Heisman. Tebow was announced as the winner at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square.
The runners-up to the Gators
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Bob Griese had a phenomenal season for Purdue in 1966. But Spurrier’s 40-yard field goal against Auburn allowed him to become a comfortable winner with 1,679 points to Griese’s 816.
He then coached Wuerffel to the Heisman and it was closer than it probably should have been. Wuerffel had 1,363 points to Iowa State’s Troy Davis’ 1,174.
Tebow beat out Darren McFadden of Arkansas, 1,957 to 1,703.
This Heisman was a landslide and lost
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That may not make sense, but the biggest victory in terms of first-place ballots received for any player came when O.J. Simpson won in 1968. That Heisman is now owned by a collector, and we won’t even get into that or the fact that the DAC took down his picture.
The largest margin of victory by percentage as the number of voters increased was LSU’s Joe Burrow, who received 93.8% of the vote.
There was a freshman run
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That came in 2012 and ’13 when the two winners were both redshirt freshmen. Johnny Manziel won in 2012 and Jameis Winston in 2013.
Florida was familiar with both having beaten Manziel in Texas A&M’s first-ever SEC game and losing to Winston and Florida State the following year.
There is something about being a finalist
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And there have been as many as eight. The tradition did not start until 1982 when the DAC invited anyone who had a shot.
In 1989, Andre Ware won, but there were eight players invited including [autotag]Emmitt Smith[/autotag], who was one of four players who did not attend. The rule changed in 2021 to include four finalists, who are the four who receive the most votes.
Florida has had its share of them
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Remember that there were no finalists until 1982 or Notre Dame would have the record. The Irish are tied for the most winners at seven. They are tied with Oklahoma and Ohio State (but won’t be if Stroud wins) and USC if you count Reggie Bush’s win, which the Heisman does not.
And it’s share of top 10 finishes
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Let’s see if you can guess how many top 10s UF has had in the Heisman. Who said 10? That is correct.
And here they are – Spurrier, [autotag]Jimmy Dubose[/autotag], [autotag]Wes Chandler[/autotag], Emmitt Smith, [autotag]Shane Matthews[/autotag], Wuerffel, Grossman, Tebow, [autotag]Kyle Trask[/autotag] and [autotag]Kyle Pitts[/autotag].
Smith and Tebow each had three top 10s and 2020 with the two Kyles is the only time Florida had two top 10s on the same team.
The year before they won it all...
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… two of Florida’s three Heisman winners had a nice showing. Spurrier was ninth in the voting in 1965 and Wuerffel was third. Tebow, who was the most famous backup in the history of college football, relieved Chris Leak at times and was not on the Heisman radar.
Spurrier and Wuerffel were seniors, but Tebow had two more shots at it, finishing third and fifth the next two years.
The most popular number?
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Maybe No. 15 when you go to a Florida game (way more about Tebow than AR), but the best way to win a Heisman is to win No. 14 or No. 20.
Five Heisman winners wore one of those two numbers. That includes Johnny Rodgers, Earl Campbell and Billy Sims (20) and Sam Bradford and Vinny Testaverde (14).
The one that got away...
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And I will never let it go.
Grossman lost to Crouch by 62 points. Crouch had seven touchdown passes in 2001 and 10 interceptions. Grossman had 34 touchdown passes.
I know that Crouch ran the option. I know that Grossman only had 25 fewer first-place votes. I also know that Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey received 109 first-place votes. Maybe we should blame him.
But I will never let it go.
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