What would happen if you took all 86 Heisman winners and tried to figure out who were the most worthy and who had the best seasons in their respective campaigns?
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The Heisman is supposed to go to the player who had the best year, so throwing out everything else you know about many of the greatest college football players ever, and only going by their Heisman winning years – and NOT factoring in how they did in the pros – here’s how their respective winning seasons would stack up.
This isn’t a ranking of the best players of all-time. It’s a ranking of how good each Heisman-winning season was compared to the rest of the field, and put into a historical sense.
There are several things to take into account with all-time Heisman rankings.
– The information available now is night-and-day better than it was in past eras.
With the internet, ESPN, on-demand stats, better television coverage, better direct marketing campaigns, and more sophisticated sports information departments, the Heisman voting is – 2020 finish behind DeVonta Smith aside – far, far stronger than it was in the old days.
That’s why many of the older winners are further down the list – they weren’t necessarily the best candidates. However, that didn’t stop a few major mistakes in recent seasons, too.
– Historically, the Heisman almost always went to junior or senior offensive skill players – underclassmen winning the thing is relatively new.
– Don’t just go by statistics. Different eras meant different things to the numbers.
– Who was the signature player in each season? That’s always debatable, but a whole lot of older winners got the Heisman because it was their turn, and not necessarily because they were the biggest stars of the season or had the best campaigns.
– Several players on this list had better seasons than their Heisman winning years, but they don’t count. For example, Army’s Glenn Davis would’ve probably ended up in the top three if either of the two seasons before his Heisman winning year were included. Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers was better in 1971 than he was in 1972 when he won the Heisman. Only the Heisman winning seasons count.
And finally, all of these players were amazing, all of them are legends, and all of them are key parts of the history of college football. There’s no ripping on the players here – it’s all about the worthiness of the win in their respective seasons.
And with that …
86. 1967 Gary Beban, QB UCLA
runner-up: O.J. Simpson, RB USC
The strangest of all Heisman victories, Beban only threw for 1,359 yards with eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions. His one shining moment came on national television completing 16 of 24 passes for 301 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against USC. There was one problem … UCLA lost thanks to a scintillating performance from Trojan star RB O.J. Simpson.
Simpson led his team to the national title thanks to a historic 64-yard touchdown run against the Bruins to finish with 1,543 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns. Beban did run for 11 scores on the season, but he only gained 227 yards.
85. 1953 Johnny Lattner, HB Notre Dame
runner-up: Paul Giel, HB Minnesota
Call this one for the Notre Dame hype machine. Lattner didn’t even lead the Irish in passing, rushing, receiving or scoring. He was a great all-purpose player and a fantastic defensive back, but his close win over Minnesota’s Paul Giel is among Heisman historians’ all-time arguments.
84. 2001 Eric Crouch, QB Nebraska
runner-up: Rex Grossman, QB Florida
Had Florida’s Rex Grossman been a senior and Nebraska’s Eric Crouch been a sophomore, and not the other way around, it would’ve been a Grossman landslide. Crouch had a great year rushing, but his claim to the honor was a touchdown catch to seal a win over Oklahoma. Grossman threw for fewer than 300 yards once, 290 in the win over Florida State, and in the team’s biggest games he threw for 362 against Tennessee, 464 against LSU and 407 against Georgia.
83. 1971 Pat Sullivan, QB Auburn
runner-up: Ed Marinaro, RB Cornell
Sullivan was a fine passer, but he was known more for being a great winner and leader, getting Auburn to a 9-0 start. However, he had his worst performance in the biggest game of the year, throwing for only 121 yards with two interceptions in a 31-7 loss to Alabama. On the year, he threw for 2,262 yards and 21 touchdowns with 13 picks, and he ran for 66 yards and two scores. He won partly because he was tremendous the year before – he had a better 1970 season.
82. 1992 Gino Torretta, QB Miami
runner-up: Marshall Faulk, RB San Diego State
Torretta’s name has become unfairly become synonymous for players who win the Heisman when voters can’t decide on a candidate. He threw for a solid 3,060 yards and 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions before the Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama, but it helped that he was a senior, and San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk and Georgia’s Garrison Hearst weren’t.
81. 1956 Paul Hornung, QB Notre Dame
runner-up: Johnny Majors, RB Tennessee
Either you could say Hornung won because of the Notre Dame name, or you can just call him a victim of circumstance as he was a great player on a lousy team. The only Heisman winner from a losing team, he only ran for 420 yards and racked up 1,337 yards of total offense. However, stats don’t measure quite how good he was on an awful team.
80. 1947 Johnny Lujack, QB Notre Dame
runner-up: Bob Chappus, HB Michigan
Sort of the early version of Gino Torretta, Lujack won the Heisman as the signature player on a ridiculously talented team. Along with being one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the first half of the 20th Century, he was also known for being a top tackler.
79. 1975 Archie Griffin, RB Ohio State
runner-up: Chuck Muncie, RB California
One of the great Heisman debates, Griffin won his second straight award despite only rushing for only four touchdowns – Pete Johnson took carries and stats away rushing for 1,059 yards and 26 touchdowns. Cal’s Chuck Muncie ran for 1,460 yards averaging 6.4 yards per carry with 13 touchdowns. Worse yet, Griffin had his only non-100-yard day against Michigan with a 46-yard performance. The Buckeyes still won and went off to the Rose Bowl where they lost to UCLA – Griffin ran for 93 yards.
78. 1958 Pete Dawkins, RB Army
runner-up: Randy Duncan, QB Iowa
Dawkins was the leader of a mighty Army team that went 8-0-1. He ran for 12 touchdowns and was a decent kick returner, but he primarily won the Heisman for being the American ideal. He was smart, good-looking, and the top player for the high-powered Army team.
77. 1959 Billy Cannon, HB LSU
runner-up: Rich Lucas, QB Penn State
Cannon was the heart and soul of the 11-0 LSU team … in 1958. He was good in 1959, remembered for a legendary performance in a 7-3 win over Ole Miss, but he won the Award off the year before. Had he won it in 1958, Cannon would be much, much higher on this list.
76. 1964 John Huarte, QB Notre Dame
runner-up: Jerry Rhome, QB Tulsa
Huarte had a good season leading the Irish to a 9-1 record, but it was nothing special, only completing 57% of his passes for 2,062 yards and 16
NEXT: Top 75 All-Time Heisman Winners
Top 75 All-Time Heisman Winners
75. 1957 John David Crow, RB Texas A&M
runner-up: Alex Karras, DT Iowa
Crow had a good year, but not a sensational one for a Heisman winner, playing in only seven games due to injuries and rushing for 562 yards with six touchdowns. However, he picked off five passes as A&M won its first eight games before losing the final three by a total of six points.
75. 2009 Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
runner-up: Toby Gerhart, RB Alabama
Ingram finished 11th in the nation in rushing with 1,658 yards and 17 scores, but he came through in the biggest games. He ran for 113 yards and three score and caught two passes for 76 yards in the SEC Championship win over Florida, and he tore off 246 yards against South Carolina and 144 yards against LSU. Call this an MVP award as he helped take Alabama to a national title.
74. 2002 Carson Palmer, QB USC
runner-up: Brad Banks, QB Iowa
Palmer was terrific in 2002, throwing for 3,942 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions leading the Trojans to the Orange Bowl. He’d be higher if USC had played for the national title or had even won the Pac-10 title outright – the Trojans lost to Washington State. An argument could be made that the Cougars’ Jason Gesser was the conference’s best quarterback.
73. 1943 Angelo Bertelli, QB Notre Dame
runner-up: Bob Odell, HB Penn
How do you fairly judge Bertelli’s Heisman season? He threw ten touchdown passes as Notre Dame won its first six games by a combined score of 261 to 31, but his campaign was cut short thanks to a petty little annoyance … World War II. Bertelli was drafted into the Army, but he still won the Heisman.
72. 1987 Tim Brown, WR Notre Dame
runner-up: Don McPherson, QB Syracuse
— The Heisman Trophy (@HeismanTrophy) November 21, 2017
Brown was the star just before Lou Holtz’s Irish teams became special. In his Heisman winning season, Brown was the ultimate game-changer with his kick returns as well as his pass catching and rushing skills, coming up with 34 catches for 846 yards and eight scores.
71. 2003 Jason White, QB Oklahoma
runner-up: Larry Fitzgerald, WR Pittsburgh
White had a great year, but unfortunately, he’ll mostly be remembered for his end-of-the-year collapse – a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship; the biggest game of the season – than his phenomenal 3,846-yard, 40 touchdown pass performance.
70. 1966 Steve Spurrier, QB Florida
runner-up: Bob Griese, QB Purdue
The young Ball Coach actually could throw a little bit and was a better runner than most of the stars he coached. He led the Gators to a 9-2 record as an all-around yardage machine – for the era – throwing for 2,012 yards and 16 touchdowns with eight picks, and running for 66 yards.
69. 1949 Leon Hart, E Notre Dame
runner-up: Charlie Justice, RB North Carolina
Hart was the star on one of Notre Dame’s most dominant teams as an offensive lineman, pass catcher, top pass rusher and bruising fullback. This might have been the best all-around true football player pick – the stats didn’t matter for what he was worth.
68. 1972 Johnny Rodgers, WR Nebraska
runner-up: Greg Pruitt, RB Oklahoma
While he didn’t have quite the season he had in 1971, Rodgers was still an electrifying all-purpose star as Nebraska went 9-2-1 with an Orange Bowl win. He caught 58 passes for 1,013 yards and nine scores.
67. 1936 Larry Kelley, E Yale
runner-up: Sam Francis, FB Nebraska
How many linemen are also home-run hitting receivers? Kelley was not only the nation’s best offensive lineman, but he was also the team’s top receiver with 54 and 46-yard touchdown grabs – catching 17 passes for 372 yards and four scores – for a great Yale team that finished 7-1.
66. 1948 Doak Walker, RB SMU
runner-up: Charlie Justice, RB North Carolina
Walker won the Heisman as a junior leading the Mustangs to the Cotton Bowl rushing for 532 yards and eight touchdowns. The stats weren’t great, but he was the star of the college football season.
65. 1937 Clint Frank, QB Yale
runner-up: Byron White, RB Colorado
One of the best combinations of speed out of the backfield and passing accuracy, Frank also was one of the nation’s top defensive players in 1937. He threw or 465 yards and ran or 667 yards and 11 scores – just blow off his 29% completion rate.
64. 1994 Rashaan Salaam, RB Colorado
runner-up: Ki-Jana Carter, RB Penn State
Salaam ran for more yards, but Carter was the better player in 1994. Salaam’s highlight was a 317-yard day against Texas. He ran for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns in 1994, leading the Buffaloes to an 11-1 season.
63. 1969 Steve Owens, RB Oklahoma
runner-up: Mike Phipps, QB Purdue
Owens only averaged 4.3 yards per carry, but he was a workhorse and a touchdown machine with 1,523 yards and 23 touchdowns. However, his Sooners only went 6-4.
62. 1946 Glenn Davis, RB Army
runner-up: Charlie Trippi, HB Georgia
“Mr. Outside” was better in his sophomore and junior seasons, but he was still great with the workload all to himself playing 58 minutes per game. A two-way player, he only missed an average of two minutes per game and was the ultimate home run hitter scoring a touchdown every nine touches, finishing with 712 yards and seven score with six receiving touchdowns. However, he’s this low because it was a lifetime achievement award – again, his 1944 and 1945 seasons were far stronger.
61. 1962 Terry Baker, QB Oregon State
runner-up: Jerry Stovall, HB LSU
Baker led the nation in total offense and was the first Heisman winner to come from the West Coast, hitting 55% of his throws for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdown with five interceptions, he also ran for 538 yards and nine scores, but his team started out 2-2.
60. 2012 Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
runner-up: Manti Te’o, LB Notre Dame
The first freshman to ever win the Heisman set the SEC record for total offense with 3,419 yards and 24 touchdown passes with 1,181 rushing yards and 19 scores. While he was magical in the road win over Alabama, he struggled in a loss to LSU and couldn’t come through in a loss to Florida. Only four of the wins came against bowl bound teams.
59. 1941 Bruce Smith, HB Minnesota
runner-up: Angelo Bertelli, QB Notre Dame
The superstar of the unbeaten Gophers, Smith wasn’t going to play against Iowa due to a knee injury. In what would turn out to be the game that decided the national title, Smith forced his way onto the field and helped set up three TDs on the way to a 34-13 win and the championship. He finished the season with 320 passing yards and two scores, and ran for 473 yards and five touchdowns.
58. 1989 Andre Ware, QB Houston
runner-up: Anthony Thompson, RB Indiana
Before there was Mike Leach’s Texas Tech attack, there was Houston. Ware completed 64% of his passes for 4,299 yards and 44 touchdowns, but his team lost to the two great teams on the slate, Texas A&M and Arkansas.
57. 1950 Vic Janowicz, RB Ohio State
runner-up: Kyle Rote, RB SMU
Not just a great running back, Janowicz was one of the nation’s best defensive backs and kickers. He threw four touchdown passes, ran for two scores and kicked ten extra points in a 83-21 win over Iowa. Overall, he ran for 314 yards and threw for 561 yards with 12 touchdowns.
56. 1954 Alan Ameche, FB Wisconsin
runner-up: Kurt Burris, LB-C Oklahoma
Ameche was the “Iron Horse” playing almost the entire game, every game as a top touchdown scoring fullback and a bruising linebacker. he rumbled for 641 yards on the year.
55. 1942 Frank Sinkwich, HB Georgia
runner-up: Paul Governali, QB Columbia
Sinkwich ran for an incredible-for-the-time 17 touchdowns and threw for ten scores leading Georgia to an 11-1 record. He ran for 828 yards on the year.
54. 1980 George Rogers, RB South Carolina
runner-up: Hugh Green, DE Pittsburgh
Unfortunately for Rogers, the world only really remembers 1980 as the year Georgia freshman RB Herschel Walker took the college football world by storm. As good as Walker was, Rogers led the nation with 1,781 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.
53. 2016 Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
runner-up: Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson
Here’s the problem – Louisville was an okay 9-3, and wasn’t in the College Football Playoff chase late in the year. It wasn’t Jackson’s fault, but his amazing season just didn’t mean quite as much to the overall landscape of the championship chase.
The other issue? There wasn’t an incredible second option – there were plenty of very good ones, but no one to take over. However, his 3,390-yard, 30-touchdown, 1,538-rushing yard, 21-rushing score season was as electrifying as any in college football history.
52. 1965 Mike Garrett, RB USC
runner-up: Howard Twilley, WR Tulsa
The first of the superstar Trojan running backs, Garrett ran for 1,440 yards and 13 touchdowns in his Heisman winning season. However, his USC team went 7-2-1 with losses to Notre Dame and UCLA.
51. 1973 John Cappelletti, RB Penn State
runner-up: John Hicks, OT Ohio State
Known more for his tear-jerking acceptance speech honoring his leukemia-stricken brother than for his fantastic season, Cappelletti was great on the field, too, running for 1,522 yards and 17 scores as the workhorse of the 12-0 Nittany Lions.
NEXT: Top 50 All-Time Heisman Winners
Top 50 All-Time Heisman Winners
50. 1985 Bo Jackson, RB Auburn
runner-up: Chuck Long, QB Iowa
— The Auburn Vault (@AuburnVault) December 7, 2017
How can you possibly argue with a 1,786-yard, 17-touchdown season from one of college football’s most legendary players? Simple, in the biggest games, he wasn’t able play the entire game and it cost Auburn. He suffered a bruised thigh in the second quarter against Florida in a 14-10 loss and was knocked out with a knee injury in the third quarter in a 38-20 loss to Tennessee.
49. 2014 Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
runner-up: Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin
It might have been a nip-and-tuck Heisman race until the final weekend, but it was a blowout after a special performance in the Pac-12 championship win over Arizona with 313 yards and two scores, and with three rushing touchdowns. Mariota was the nearly flawless leader on the way to playing for the first College Football Playoff national title, throwing 38 touchdown passes and just two interceptions to go along with 669 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.
48. 1990 Ty Detmer, QB BYU
runner-up: Rocket Ismail, WR Notre Dame
Detmer started off the season beating the number one, defending national champion Miami Hurricanes and finished with 5,188 yards and 41 touchdowns … with 28 interceptions.
47. 2011 Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor
runner-up: Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
Griffin’s passer rating of 192.31 was the greatest single-season pre-bowl mark in NCAA history. He was brilliant in the opening week win over TCU and the season-changing victory over Oklahoma, but the three losses drop him down the list. His late pick against Kansas State – despite throwing five scoring passes – ended up costing the Bears the game, and while he threw for over 855 yards in the losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, they were losses.
46. 1935 Jay Berwanger, RB Chicago
runner-up: Monk Meyer, HB Army
The first Heisman winner racked up 1,839 total yards and was the nation’s best defensive back. In his last game he single-handedly beat Illinois with less than a minute to play as he returned a punt 49-yards going in, over and around the defenders down to the one. On the next play, he popped in for the touchdown, then hit the extra point for a 7-6 win.
45. 1944 Les Horvath, QB Ohio State
runner-up: Glenn Davis, RB Army
This is a tough one because Glenn Davis probably deserved the award more, averaging 11.1 yards per carry with 120 points, but the Army star was only a sophomore. But this is a list about the great seasons the Heisman winners had, and Horvath was tremendous, rushing for 924 yards carrying the Buckeyes to an unbeaten record. He was also a superior defensive player as one of the team’s top tacklers.
44. 2022 Bryce Young, QB Alabama
runner-up: Aidan Hutchinson, DE Michigan
There wasn’t much happening in the 2022 Heisman race, and then Young took Alabama for a drive for the ages, keeping the national title hopes alive with a scoring pass in the final moments to force overtime in a win over Auburn. He sealed the award throwing for 421 yards and three touchdowns in the SEC Championship win over unbeaten Georgia.
43. 1993 Charlie Ward, QB Florida State
runner-up: Heath Shuler, QB Tennessee
Ward led the high-octane Seminoles to the national championship, completing close to 70% of his passes for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns with just four picks, an ran for 339 yards and four touchdowns.
42. 1961 Ernie Davis, RB Syracuse
runner-up: Bob Ferguson, FB Ohio State
Davis was a big back with tremendous hands, he broke all of Jim Brown’s rushing records. He ran for more yards per carry in his two previous seasons, but he had his best scoring year in 1961 rushing for 823 yards and 12 touchdowns.
41. 1970 Jim Plunkett, QB Stanford
runner-up: Joe Theismann, QB Notre Dame
Plunkett set several NCAA passing records while at Stanford – throwing for 2,980 yards and 19 touchdowns with 19 picks while rushing for three scores – leading the Indians to the Rose Bowl and one of the stunning upsets in the game’s history beating 9-0 Ohio State 27-17.
40. 1945 Doc Blanchard, RB Army
runner-up: Glenn Davis, RB Army
The first junior to win the Heisman, “Mr. Inside” was a bruising, but lightning fast fullback. He led the Cadets with 115 total points scoring 19 touchdowns with one extra point.
39. 2000 Chris Weinke, QB Florida State
runner-up: Josh Heupel, QB Oklahoma
Had Weinke been 22 instead of 28-years-old, he probably would’ve been a runaway winner instead of squeaking past Oklahoma’s Josh Heupel. Weinke obliterated every Florida State passing record finishing his career by throwing for 4,441 yards and 34 touchdowns as he led the team to a national championship appearance – and lost to Heupel and Oklahoma.
38. 2020 DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama
runner-up: Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson
Was he the best player on his own team? QB Mac Jones (3) and RB Najee Harris (5) each finished in the top five in the Heisman race. Was he the best wide receiver on his own team? That might have been Jaylen Waddle before getting hurt. But that’s not how this is done. Smith took over the season in the second half with five 100-yard games including a 15-catch, 184-yard, two-touchdown day against Florida in the SEC Championship. After the voting, it took it up another level with 19 catches for 345 yards and six touchdowns in the two College Football Playoff games.
37. 2004 Matt Leinart, QB USC
runner-up: Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma
In one of the best Heisman fields ever, Leinart stood out throwing for 2,990 yards and 28 touchdowns – 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns after the Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma – with only six interceptions as he led the Trojans to the national title.
36. 1939 Nile Kinnick, RB Iowa
runner-up: Tom Harmon, RB Michigan
The Iron Man of the Iron Man team played 402 consecutive minutes before getting knocked out of the Northwestern game with a separated shoulder. Kinnick was the star of the show all year long, throwing for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 31 passes, and he ran for 374 yards.
35. 1940 Tom Harmon, RB Michigan
runner-up: John Kimbrough, RB Texas A&M
He combined for 3,438 yards in his senior season. In the 40-0 win over Ohio State, Harmon completed 11-of-12 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 139 yards and two TDs, kicked four extra points and intercepted three passes in the game. He finished the year with 852 rushing yards and 15 scores
34. 2005 Reggie Bush, RB USC
runner-up: Vince Young, QB Texas
Of course, this season didn’t exist – yes, Reggie Bush did win the Heisman Trophy. Unfortunately, Vince Young’s Rose Bowl performance beating USC for the national championship forced a collective “oops” from the Heisman voters.
From the “Bush Push” to help beat Notre Dame, to his 23-carry, 294-yard day against Fresno State, the electrifying Bush was the signature player of the season before the trip to Pasadena. It’s not like he was shut down by the Longhorns, running for 82 yards and a score and catching six passes for 95 yards. On the year he ran for 1,740 yards and 16 scores, caught 37 passes for 478 yards and two scores, and was deadly as a kick and punt returner, too.
33. 1995 Eddie George, RB Ohio State
runner-up: Tommie Frazier, QB Nebraska
George averaged 152 yards per game and scored 23 touchdowns, highlighted by a 314-yard day against Illinois. Extremely consistent, he hit the 100-yard mark in 11 straight games. In the one game of the year he didn’t run for 100, he ran for 99, finishing the season with 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns with a 47 catches for 417 yards and a score.
32. 2006 Troy Smith, QB Ohio State
runner-up: Darren McFadden, RB Arkansas
Smith won in one of the biggest Heisman blowouts of all-time, throwing 30 touchdown passes, five interceptions, and 2,507 yards while running for five scores. Most importantly, he was at his best in the biggest games in road wins over Texas and Iowa, along with the Heisman-sealing performance in the epic showdown over No. 2 Michigan.
31. 1938 Davey O’Brien, QB TCU
runner-up: Marshall Goldberg, RB Pittsburgh
O’Brien led the Horned Frogs to an unbeaten season throwing a touchdown pass in every game, finishing with 1,509 yards and 19 touchdowns and just four picks, and running for 466 yards and three scores. He was a star punter, too.
30. 1951 Dick Kazmaier, RB Princeton
runner-up: Hank Lauricella, RB Tennessee
Kazmaier led the nation in total offense out of the single wing instead of the more fashionable T formation. He was a deadly accurate passer highlighted by a 15-of-17, 236-yard, three touchdown performance against Cornell. He also ran for 124 yards and two scores in the big win, finishing the season with – remember the era – 861 yards and nine scores while completing 63% of his passes for 966 yards and 13 scores with five picks.
29. 1963 Roger Staubach, QB Navy
runner-up: Billy Lothridge, QB Georgia Tech
Always making clutch plays as the leader of one of the nation’s best teams, Staubach only threw nine touchdown passes, but he led the nation in passing accuracy and threw for 237 yards in the key game against Michigan. He got 517 first place votes, while runner-up Billy Lothridge of Georgia Tech got a total of 504 points.
28. 1997 Charles Woodson, CB Michigan
runner-up: Peyton Manning, QB Tennessee
Woodson was the difference maker in Michigan’s national championship season, doing it all from returning punts and playing receiver along with his duties as the nation’s best defensive player. Take Manning away from Tennessee and there’s no SEC title. Take Woodson away from Michigan and there’s no national title.
27. 1979 Charles White, RB USC
runner-up: Billy Sims, RB Oklahoma
The ultimate workhorse, White averaged 194 yards per game – carrying the ball 332 times for 2,050 yards and 19 scores – leading USC to the Rose Bowl and a 10-0-1 record. He carried the ball 44 times for 261 yards in the 42-23 win over Notre Dame.
26. 2015 Derrick Henry, RB Alabama
runner-up: Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford
Henry wasn’t really a top candidate until halfway through the season, but he ran for close to 2,000 yards, carried the ball 90 times in the final two games to get to the SEC title game, and then won the conference title game – it was the stuff of legend. The 210-yard, three score day against LSU – when all the world was watching Leonard Fournette – was an all-timer of a performance. It wasn’t flashy, but it was special an effective. That was his Heisman season.
NEXT: Top 25 All-Time Heisman Winners
Top 25 All-Time Heisman Winners
25. 1986 Vinny Testaverde, QB Miami
runner-up: Paul Palmer, RB Temple
Testaverde led the Canes to the Fiesta Bowl where they lost to Penn State. Before that meltdown, he lit up number one Oklahoma for four touchdown passes and threw for 2,557 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 165.8 passer rating. Remember, Heismans are decided before bowl games.
24. 1952 Billy Vessels, RB Oklahoma
runner-up: Jack Scarbath, QB Maryland
Vessels did it all, scoring 18 touchdowns and rushing for 1,078 yards with seven 100-yard running days in the 8-1-1 season. The star of Bud Wilkinson’s team was the first of the big-time OU star offensive players
23. 1960 Joe Bellino, RB Navy
runner-up: Tom Brown, G Minnesota
Bellino was a touchdown machine, scoring 18 times while leading Navy to the Orange Bowl. Only 5-9 and 181 pounds, he was small, but he was a tough, do-it-all playmaker with 834 rushing yards, three touchdown catches and two touchdown passes while also serving as a punt returner. Navy went 9-1 with a win over Army before losing to Missouri in the Orange Bowl.
22. 1974 Archie Griffin, RB Ohio State
runner-up: Anthony Davis, RB USC
— The Heisman Trophy (@HeismanTrophy) December 1, 2017
Griffin ran for 1,695 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards per carry rushing for more than 111 yards in every game before the Rose Bowl. His first Heisman win was one of the most dominant landslides ever, beating USC’s Anthony Davis by over 1,100 points.
21. 2013 Jameis Winston, QB Florida State
runner-up: AJ McCarron, QB Alabama
The only reason he isn’t much, much higher is the MVP factor – could Florida State have finished the regular season unbeaten without him? The team was that dominant. However, there wasn’t even a realistic No. 2 option. Just as the quarterback stats started to blow up in the college football world, he led the was completing 67% of his passes for 4,057 yards and 40 scores with ten picks as the catalyst for national champion.
NEXT: Top 20 All-Time Heisman Winners
Top 20 All-Time Heisman Winners
20. 1999 Ron Dayne, RB Wisconsin
runner-up: Joe Hamilton, QB Georgia Tech
With a bull’s-eye on his back all season long, Dayne still became – and remains – the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher with a 1,834-yard season on the way to the Rose Bowl. Extremely consistent, he ran for over 200 yards four times including in three of the final four games when the team needed him the most. Throw in the 200-yard Rose Bowl day and he finished with 2,034 yards.
19. 2008 Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma
runner-up: Colt McCoy, QB Texas
The Sooner star became the second sophomore to win the award after leading the offense to the most points ever scored by a D-I/FBS team. He led the way to five straight 60+ points per game to close out the regular season, and finished with 4,464 yards and 48 touchdowns with six interceptions and five touchdown runs. However, he didn’t get the most first place votes, finishing second to Florida’s Tim Tebow.
18. 1977 Earl Campbell, RB Texas
runner-up: Terry Miller, RB Oklahoma State
Campbell led the Longhorns to a spot in the national title game ripping off 1,744 yards (a 6.5 yard per carry average) and 18 rushing touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 111 yards and a score as the main man for the nation’s top team.
17. 1984 Doug Flutie, QB Boston College
runner-up: Keith Byars, RB Ohio State
Flutie had it won even before the pass against Miami. He completed 233-of-386 passes for 3,454 yards and 27 touchdown – and scrambled for 379 yards and three scores – but it was one magical, rainy day in Miami that made him a college football legend.
16. 1978 Billy Sims, RB Oklahoma
runner-up: Chuck Fusina, QB Penn State
Other Heisman-winning running backs amassed more yards and scored more touchdowns, but few hit the home-run like Sims did during his 1978 season. As a junior, Sims averaged 7.6 yards per carry, rushing for 17,62 yards and 20 touchdowns as he carried the Sooners to the Big Eight title and the Orange Bowl.
15. 1998 Ricky Williams, RB Texas
runner-up: Michael Bishop, QB Kansas State
Williams had a flair for the dramatic to go along with his consistency in the 1998 season. He was held to 43 yards by Kansas State – which is the only reason his Heisman season isn’t in the top five – but he finished the year, counting the bowl performance against Mississippi State, with 30 touchdowns and 2,427 yards along with the NCAA all-time rushing record (broken the year after by Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne).
14. 1955 Howard Cassady, RB Ohio State
runner-up: Jim Swink, HB TCU
Remember, players back in the day didn’t put up the astronomical statistics they do now. Hopalong’s 1955 season was something truly special, rushing for 958 yards and 15 touchdowns. He closed out the season with 439 yards and six touchdowns during the crucial Big Ten stretch run with 146 yards and a touchdown over No. 6 Michigan to win the title. Cassady was also an All-America caliber defensive back.
13. 1991 Desmond Howard, WR Michigan
runner-up: Casey Weldon, QB Florida State
November 23rd, 1991 Desmond Howard famous Heisman pose punt return against Ohio Stae.
— Sports Junkie (@_Sports00) September 13, 2017
Howard was the first receiver in Big Ten history to lead the conference in scoring, and set or tied five NCAA records with 23 total touchdowns. He actually caught more passes for more yards in 1990, but his acrobatic touchdown making ability and punt return prowess made his 1991 season legendary. His margin over Florida State’s Casey Weldon was – at the time – the second largest in Heisman history.
12. 1983 Mike Rozier, RB Nebraska
runner-up: Steve Young, QB BYU
Rozier was the unstoppable force on the Big Red Machine of 1983 rushing 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.
11. 1996 Danny Wuerffel, QB Florida
runner-up: Troy Davis, RB Iowa State
The 1996 national title team played the nation’s toughest schedule, facing No. 2 Tennessee, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 16 Auburn, No. 2 Florida State twice, and No. 11 Alabama. Even so, Wuerffel had one of the best years in college football history – at the time – 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 – again, amazing for the time.
NEXT: Top Ten All-Time Heisman Winners
Top Ten All-Time Heisman Winners
10. 2017 Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma
runner-up: Bryce Love, RB Stanford
Mayfield was a Heisman runner-up in 2016 with the most efficient season in college football history with a 196.39 passer rating. And then he blew that out of the water in 2017 by taking it up more than seven points higher. The 203.76 rating was Ruthian, hitting 71% of his throws for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns with five picks averaging a ridiculous 11.8 yards per attempt. Oh yeah – and Oklahoma won its third straight Big 12 title and went to the College Football Playoff.
9. 2018 Kyler Murray, QB Oklahoma
runner-up: Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) December 9, 2018
In 2017, Baker Mayfield put up the best regular season passing efficiency rate in the history of college football, hitting a 203.76. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa finished the season was 202.30, and Murray took the stat even further with a historic 205.72.
He threw for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns, averaged 11.9 yards per pass, and ran for 892 yards and 11 scores all while leading Oklahoma to a fourth straight Big 12 title and the College Football playoff. But even more than that, he beat out Tagovailoa and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, who would’ve won the Heisman in almost any other season.
8. 2007 Tim Tebow, QB Florida
runner-up: Darren McFadden, RB Arkansas
With an all-timer of a statistical season – being the first quarterback to run for 20 touchdowns and throw for 20 – the first sophomore to ever win the Heisman became the culmination of everything the spread offense could become. He finished with 838 yards and 22 touchdowns and was second in the nation in passing efficiency completing 217-of-317 passes for 3,132 yards and 29 touchdowns with six interceptions.
7. 1968 O.J. Simpson, RB USC
runner-up: Leroy Keyes, RB Purdue
Simpson should’ve been accepting his second Heisman after getting shafted in 1967, but his 1968 season was still worthy of being among the best of all-time rushing for 1,880 yards (1,709 before the bowl) and 23 touchdowns while catching 26 passes for 211 yards. His Heisman victory was the most one-sided in college football history beating Purdue’s Leroy Keyes 2,853 points to 1,103.
6. 1982 Herschel Walker, RB Georgia
runner-up: John Elway, QB Stanford
Walker actually had a better season in 1981, but there was no way he was getting past USC’s Marcus Allen. In 1982, Walker ran for 1,752 yards and 17 touchdowns carrying Georgia to an SEC title and a shot at the national title. What’s more amazing is that he amassed those totals after running for just 20 yards in the season opener against Clemson, hurt by a broken thumb. Even though he was playing in a cast, he ran for 124 yards against BYU and 143 against South Carolina. The cast came off and Walker went nuts, averaging 183 yards per game over his final eight.
NEXT: The Top Five All-Time Heisman Winners
Top Five All-Time Heisman Winners
5. 2010 Cam Newton, QB Auburn
runner-up: Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
— AU_History (@AU_History) December 11, 2016
Tim Tebow won the Heisman in 2007 as the first player to ever run for 20 touchdowns and throw for 20 scores in the same season, but Florida didn’t play for the national title. Newton led the nation in passing efficiency, ran for 20 touchdowns, threw for 28 scores, with just six interceptions, and finished first in the SEC and 15th in the nation in rushing with 1,409 yards … and he took Auburn to the BCS Championship.
Beyond the stats, the size, the speed, and the cool play under fire, rallying Auburn back from a 24-0 deficit against Alabama as the signature moment cemented this among the greatest seasons in college football history. However, his all-timer of a year will always be attached to the controversy regarding his father and an alleged pay-for-play solicitation from Mississippi State. On the flip side, he performed at the highest level through the distractions.
4. 1981 Marcus Allen, RB USC
runner-up: Herschel Walker, RB Georgia
— Retro Sports (@RetroSports411) August 19, 2017
It had to be a really, really good season to be better than Herschel Walker’s best year. Allen was college football’s first 2,000-yard rusher with 2,427 yards (2,342 before the bowl) and 22 touchdowns in his tremendous senior season. He set 14 NCAA records and tied two others including most 200-yard games in a row with five. He also led the Trojans in receptions with 34 for 256 yards and a score.
3. 1976 Tony Dorsett, RB Pittsburgh
runner-up: Ricky Bell, RB USC
— The Heisman Trophy (@HeismanTrophy) November 9, 2017
Dorsett didn’t just put up big numbers on the way to becoming the NCAA’s all-time rushing leader. He was amazing in the big games, leading the Pitt Panthers to the national championship averaging 215 yards per game over the final seven, and finishing with 1,948 yards and 23 touchdowns. During the streak he tore off a 224-yard day against Penn State before closing out with a record 202-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl win over Georgia.
2. 2019 Joe Burrow, QB LSU
runner-up: Jalen Hurts, QB Oklahoma
There’s no argument whatsoever if you think he should be No. 1.
The national championship and College Football Playoff don’t factor into the Heisman equation, but Burrow doesn’t need the extra stats.
The 2019 Heisman Trophy Winner pic.twitter.com/1N7tWegTZW
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) December 15, 2019
He was the greatest landslide winner in the history of the Heisman with 91% of the votes – beating Troy Smith’s mark of 86.7% in 2006 – and it’s not like he didn’t have competition. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa had the most efficient season in college football history before getting hurt, Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard and Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor each ran for over 1,900 yards and 21 scores, and Ohio State’s Chase Young was the most devastating college pass rusher ever.
But Burrow led the way to the SEC Championship and the CFP hitting 78% of his passes for 4,715 yards and 48 touchdown passes with six picks against great team after great team.
1. 1988 Barry Sanders, RB Oklahoma State
runner-up: Rodney Peete, QB USC
— OTBS Online (@OTBSonline) December 3, 2017
Sanders’ 1988 season ranks among the most dominant in the history of sports alongside Babe Ruth’s 60-home run 1927 campaign, Wayne Gretzky’s 92-goal season of 1981-1982 (and maybe his 215 point year in 1985-1986) and Jerry Rice’s 1987 season when he caught 22 touchdowns passes in 12 games.
The backup to Thurman Thomas and an All-America kickoff returner the year before, Sanders exploded for 2,628 yards and 39 touchdowns when the job was his in 1988. Throw in the bowl game stats like the NCAA does now, and Sanders ran for 2,850 yards and scored 44 times. By himself, Sanders would’ve finished 7th in rushing among all 2021 teams (after the regular season).