It is arguably the most recognizable trophy in all of sports, a stiff-armed bronze symbol that defines the all-American golden-boy spirit. The Heisman Trophy's winners stir memories of all-time greats who have won Super Bowl MVPs, been enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame ... and even excelled in other pro sports (Florida State's
The award goes to "the most outstanding player in college football." But some Heisman recipients have won the award because of the voting process that is often influenced by unwritten rules that make age, wins and losses and position as important as individual dominance.
Saturday, Florida quarterback
Let's take a look back at the past 20 Heisman winners and evaluate who won, and in some cases, who should have won.
Brown was asked at the ceremony whether playing for Notre Dame helped him win the award -- and there's real reason to believe it did. He started the season strong (two punt returns for TDs vs. Michigan State) but finished with just 39 catches. Still, he was a landslide winner over McPherson, who won the Maxwell Award (given to the nation's top player) after leading the nation in passing and directing Syracuse to a perfect season.
There's no arguing about the greatest back at any level and the greatest individual season of all time. Sanders set 25 single-season records in 1988, including rushing yards (2,628), rushing touchdowns (39) and all-purpose yards (3,249). Second-place finisher,
Ware is the reason no Texas Tech, Hawaii or any other system quarterback will likely ever win the award. Ware put up gaudy numbers (4,299 yards and 44 touchdowns) in the Cougars' run-and-shoot offense, numbers that didn't look so impressive when
Those 10,000 cloth ties, called Heisman "Tys," that BYU sent out did the trick, as Detmer became the WAC's first winner. You can make a case it should have been Notre Dame's
No one will forget
In retrospect, Torretta's win seemed to be a statement by voters of every bias that has haunted the award since; it went to a senior with decent numbers (3,060 passing yards, 19 touchdowns) on a major team that was in contention for the national title. But the right pick would have been Faulk, a sophomore who ran for 1,630 yards, including 299 vs. BYU, and scored 15 TDs.
The only winner to go on to play in the NBA, Ward led the Seminoles' no-huddle, shotgun "Fast Break" attack. He accounted for 31 touchdowns, including 27 passing, and had 3,536 yards of total offense, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He beat out Tennessee's
Granted, Salaam became the fourth back to top 2,000 yards and had 516 more than Carter, but Salaam did it with 100 more carries than Carter, who averaged 7.7 yards per attempt. Carter was part of an explosive Penn State team that won by an average of 26 points a game and was often sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter. Carter was at a disadvantage because he had Heisman competition from teammate
It was the closest voting in history at the time, as George edged Nebraska QB
Wuerffel won a close race (189 points) over Iowa State's
Voters may have gotten caught up in Woodson's do-everything exploits at corner, wide receiver and on punt returns. But while he did deliver some spectacular plays, Manning was spectacular the whole season. He passed for 3,819 yards, 36 touchdowns and had just 11 picks. Manning was likely the victim of lofty expectations and voters who were more excited about honoring a defensive player, rather than the most dominant one.
Forget everything that's happened since he left school; Williams was a force in college. He set a then Division I-A career records for career yards (6,279) and rushing touchdowns (73) and broke or tied 18 other marks. He was rightfully a runaway winner over Kansas State quarterback
Basically, you can take every reason Williams won and understand why "The Great Dayne" was the only logical choice. He broke Williams' career-rushing record with 6,397 yards and won the award by 1,048 points over second-place finisher
You could make a case for Oklahoma's
This is a classic career achievement/age vote. Crouch, a senior who had more than 1,000 yards on the ground and in the air, may have had his Heisman moment with a touchdown catch against Oklahoma, but Grossman, a sophomore, was great week-in and week-out. He had only one game in which he didn't throw for at least 300 yards (290 vs. Florida State) in finishing with 3,896 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 picks.
Palmer easily beat Iowa's
Fitzgerald carried Pitt with a sensational season in which he caught 92 balls for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns -- but he was sophomore. White, who was at the controls of the Sooners offense, passed for 3,846 yards and 40 scores. White turned in a dismal performance vs. K-State in the Big 12 title game, but it wasn't enough to dissuade voters.
The age bias in the '03 voting came back to haunt voters in 2004. White probably would have won had he not taken the award the year before. But even if he had won, White still would have been the wrong Sooner. Peterson, a true freshman, was the nation's best player in '04. He ran for a freshman-record 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns, but finished second to Leinart, who was the safe pick.
The electric, all-purpose Bush was the sexy pick on the sexy team, but Young was simply out of this world. Bush earned 784 first-place votes to Young's 79 in a landslide victory, but while Bush benefited from a star-studded lineup that included Leinart and backfield-mate
There seems to be a growing number of fans who believe, in retrospect, Arkansas'