Greatest Living Heisman Trophy Winners
In a game that spans many eras, any task like this is exceedingly difficult and fraught with contradiction. With all the nostalgia built into the Heisman Trophy and the game of college football, we're buying into it with a less clinical, more emotional effort at ranking players. There's a bias towards the modern, towards a player being associated with the trophy and towards those that most captured peoples' imaginations.
5) O.J. Simpson (1968 winner, USC tailback)
Simpson had a spectacular two-year career at USC after transferring from a junior college. Arguably, he should have won the award in 1967. He managed to set an NCAA record with 1,654 yards rushing his senior year, netting 3,187 total yards to go with 34 touchdowns. His combination of size, speed, power, agility, stamina and physical grace remains arguably unmatched to this day.
Simpson's weaving 64-yard game winning touchdown run late in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game against UCLA in 1967 remains one of the most memorable plays in college football history.
4) Tony Dorsett (1976 winner, Pitt tailback)
One of the greatest backs in an era of great backs, Dorsett strung together one of the more accomplished four-year careers in college football history. Dorsett set NCAA records for career yards gained with 6,082 and set a stunning freshman record with 1,948 to help put himself and Pitt football on the map nationally. His senior year would bring Pitt a national championship.
3) Matt Leinart (2004 winner, USC quarterback)
Leinart was the field general for one of the greatest short-term runs of any team in the modern era for USC between 2003 and 2005. He won the trophy in 2004 in leading USC to an undefeated season and a national championship, but arguably should have won the award in 2003 (he finished sixth in voting) and wasn't far off in 2005 (third). He would go on to a 37-2 career record, with one loss in double overtime and the other in the final 19 seconds of the BCS Championship Game against Texas, robbing him of a shot at immortality with three consecutive national championships.
2) Barry Sanders (1988 winner, Oklahoma State tailback)
Sanders' 1988 was almost inarguably the greatest single-season effort in college football history. He led the nation with a still-stunning 2,628 rush yards (3,249 all purpose) and 39 touchdowns. Sanders was so good he obliterated an excellent field of challengers including Rodney Peete, Troy Aikman, Steve Walsh and Major Harris in Heisman voting.
1) Archie Griffin (1974 and 1975 winner, Ohio State tailback)
Griffin is the awards' only two-time winner and among its most recognized recipients. Its debatable whether he deserved both awards but he was certainly in the mix each year, bseting USC's Anthony Davis in 1974 and Cal's Chuck Muncie, USC's Ricky Bell and Pitt's Tony Dorsett in 1975. He set an NCAA record with 31 consecutive 100-yard games in putting together a steady and often spectacular career not unlike Tony Dorsett and happens to be one of the more humble and likeable winners and greatest representatives of the trophy.
Last Five In No Particular Order
Reggie Bush (2005 winner, USC tailback)
Yeah yeah yeah Vince Young, Bush earned this in averaging a staggering 8.9 yards/carry and carrying USC to several victories including a 18-point comeback against Arizona State, a three-touchdown performance against Notre Dame on a sluggish outing for USC's offense and the much-hyped outing against Fresno State where he gained over 500 all purpose yards including 294 on the ground.
Tim Tebow (2007 winner, Florida quarterback)
If you can get past the hype and hysteria, Tebow is right up there with Leinart for greatest player of the 2000's with one year left to play. Tebow already has two national championships to his name and carried Florida through the 2007 season in becoming the first player to throw and run for over 20 touchdowns in a season.
Desmond Howard (1991 winner, Michigan receiver)
A sentimental favorite, few players captured the spirit of the award like Howard who had a knack for game-changing plays against big-time opponents. He has two well-remembered plays to his name: the diving back of the end zone catch to beat Notre Dame and a punt return against rival Ohio State where after streaking into the end zone he struck the Heisman pose.
Herschel Walker (1982 winner, Georgia tailback)
A freak of nature physically, Walker is another player who arguably could have won more Heisman trophies. He carried the Georgia offense for three years, gobbling up 5,097 career rush yards and helping them to a national championship all the while dealing with nearly unprecedented attention, pressure and hype.
Eddie George (1995 winner, Ohio State tailback)
George was a star on a loaded Ohio State team for several years, but was at his most brilliant in 1995, running for 314 yards against Illinois in one of the most singularly dominant games of that decade. He would go on to beat out Nebraska's Tommie Frazier and Florida's Danny Wuerffel in gaining the Heisman Trophy.
Charlie Ward (1993 winner, Florida State quarterback), Marcus Allen (1981 winner, USC tailback), Johnny Rodgers (1972 winner, Nebraska tailback), Howard "Hopalong" Cassady (1955 winner, Ohio State tailback)