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.

heismanAnd 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 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

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 take 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.

This 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 award.

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?


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

Year         Winner                            Another Option

1935 Jay Berwanger, Chicago      Joe Stydahar, West Virgina

1936 Larry Kelly, Yale                   Sammy Baugh, TCU

1937 Clint Frank, Yale                  Alex Wojciechowski, Fordham

1938 Davey O’Brien, TCU            Sid Luckman, Columbia

1939 Nike 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 Spurrer, 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 Motana, 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 Wuerffell, 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 Walson, Clemson


(Gary Shelton is one of America’s most-honored and distinguished sports journalists. Gary has been named the Associated Press Sports Editors’ No. 1 national sports columnist twice, has been a top five finisher five ot,her times and was chosen by sports editors in the top 10 columnists eight different years. He has been selected Florida’s Sportswriter of the Year six times. He was a columnist with the St. Peterburgshelton/Tampa Bay Times for 25 years after joining the newspaper from The Miami Herald. Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls and 10 Winter and Summer Olympics, The Masters, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Finals and national championship in college football and basketball — all on multiple occasions over the past four decades. He currently has his own website — — blanketing all sports in the Tampa Bay area. He is among the most creative and thoughtful and opinionated, and hard-headed, columnists you’ll ever read. And funny. And one of the good guys. Don’t ever miss his columns, interviews and stories on Gary has agreed to be an occasional contributor to