By GARY SHELTON
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.
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 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. Peterburg/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 — garysheltonsports.com — 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 garysheltonsports.com. Gary has agreed to be an occasional contributor to woodypaige.com.)