Does it feel like a millstone sometimes? Do you ever regret
having won the Heisman Trophy? Those questions were posed to
Desmond Howard, who won the award as a Michigan wide receiver
and kick returner in 1991. Howard became the fourth player
selected in the NFL draft the next spring and has borne the
label "bust" ever since.
"It's an unbelievable honor," says Howard, who performed poorly
on the rare occasions he played during three seasons with the
Washington Redskins but is now a starter for the expansion
Jacksonville Jaguars. "But you have to move on, because what
happens after that doesn't have anything to do with what
happened to you in college."
Indeed, over the last 15 years, for every Heisman winner who
reached the Pro Bowl--for every George Rogers (1980), Bo Jackson
('85) and Barry Sanders ('88)--there were guys whose acceptance
of the unwieldy statue marked the peak of their athletic
careers. Where, for instance, is Andre Ware, the Houston
quarterback who won in 1989 and was selected by the Detroit
Lions with the seventh overall draft pick four months later?
When the Jaguars cut him last August, Ware turned in his
playbook for the third time in six years. "I'll hold my head up
and go on and do whatever the Lord has in store for me," he said
at the time.
The Lord had cold temperatures in store for Ware, who spent
this season with the Ottawa Roughriders of the CFL. He's not the
first Heisman winner to land in the Great White North. Doug
Flutie, the '84 recipient now quarterbacking the Calgary
Stampeders, had to immigrate to Canada to recapture the glory he
earned at Boston College. The vest-pocket expatriate (and
ex-Patriot) is now in his sixth season in the CFL, where he has
won a Grey Cup and is the only four-time winner of the Most
Outstanding Player Award in league history.
While Flutie has been collecting MOPAs, other recent
Heisman-winning quarterbacks have been moping. Miami's Gino
Torretta, who beat out Marshall Faulk for the Heisman in '92,
was cut by the Lions on Sept. 5 and is out of football. Torretta
was the second Hurricane signal-caller to win the Heisman, the
first having been Vinny Testaverde ('86), whom the Tampa Bay
Bucs made the first pick of the '87 NFL draft. So certain was
the Buccaneer brain trust of his greatness that it jettisoned
its starter, a skittish lefty by the name of Steve Young.
As it turned out, Testaverde arrived in the NFL slightly
deficient in reading defenses. "At Miami he didn't have to read
anything," says Tampa Bay quarterback coach Turk Schoenert. "He
just dropped back, and his receivers ran by people. He got away
with throws in college that he couldn't get away with here."
Testaverde threw 35 interceptions in 1988. After six years in
Tampa he was dealt to the Cleveland Browns, who benched him two
weeks ago in favor of Eric Zeier, a rookie out of Georgia whose
credentials do not include a Heisman Trophy. Last year the award
went to Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam, now of the Chicago
Bears. The word on Salaam has been good but not great: Through
10 games he was on pace to rush for almost 1,000 yards, though
it remains to be seen whether he has fully recovered from a bout
of early-season fumble-itis.