The Heisman Trophy does not the best player make … or does it?
On the eve of the 2013 ceremony, we take a look back at the last 13 years, to see which Heisman winners went on to great pro success, and which Heisman challengers turned out to be the best players.
Below this nifty infographic, we explain our reasoning. Don’t agree? Tell us in the comments, or tweet to us @YahooDrSaturday
Disclaimer: This is not a list of who should have won the Heisman Trophy, but who was worthy of Heisman consideration and continued their success into the NFL.
2000: Chris Weinke (4,167 pass yards, 34 total TDs, 11 INTs, 11-2 record) beat out Oklahoma’s Josh Heupel, Purdue’s Drew Brees and TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson to win the Heisman. LT rushed for 2,158 yards, with 22 TDs in 2000. He went on to a Hall of Fame-worthy NFL career, finishing fifth in career NFL rushing yards with 13,684 and third in TDs, with 162. Brees was also considered for this spot.
2001: Nebraska QB Eric Crouch rushed for 1,115 yards and 18 TDs, passed for 1,510 yards, seven TDs and 10 INTs, and added a spectacular 63-yard TD reception, as he beat out Florida’s Rex Grossman and Miami’s Ken Dorsey in a close Heisman vote. UNC’s two-sport star DE Julius Peppers had 63 tackles, 19 for loss, 9.5 sacks and 3 INTs, and finished 10th in Heisman voting. He’s in the midst of a stellar NFL career, with 118 sacks, nine INTs and four defensive TDs. Crouch was picked in the third round of the NFL Draft, but never played a down.
2002: USC’s Carson Palmer threw for 3,942 yards, 37 total TDs and 10 INTs to win the Heisman. Miami's Willis McGahee had a dominant season, with 2,108 total yards and 27 scores for a Miami team that ran the table in the regular season for the second-straight year, losing only in overtime of the title game vs. Ohio State. McGahee overcame a gruesome knee injury in that game to have a very good NFL career. He has accumulated more than 9,800 total yards and 70 TDs in the NFL. Palmer has had a solid career, with a 62-72 record, 32,923 yards, 209 TDs and 147 INTs.
2003: Did Oklahoma QB Jason White (3,846 yards, with 41 total TDs and 10 INTs) have a great season? Of course. But Pitt WR Larry Fitzgerald was absolutely incredible as a sophomore, with 92 catches and NCAA-best 1,672 yards and 22 scores, while finishing second to White in the voting. He had 10 100-yard games and eight multi-TD games. Fitzgerald has amassed 831 catches, 11,187 yards and 87 TDs in his NFL career so far. White went undrafted, and never played in the NFL.
2004: Matt Leinart led an unbeaten USC team with 3,322 yards, 36 total TDs and six INTs to win the Heisman. Adrian Peterson, however, had a historic freshman season with 1,925 yards, 15 TDs and 11 100-yard games (nine consecutive to start his career). Peterson has gone on to have one of the greatest starts to an NFL career by any running back in history, while Leinart struggled through six NFL seasons.
2005: USC star Reggie Bush did it all, rushing for 1,740 yards, catching 27 passes for 478 yards and had 672 return yards, with 19 total TDs, and won the Heisman Trophy going away over Texas’ Vince Young. Amidst scandal, Bush returned his trophy, and the Heisman Trust has left it vacant since.
2006: Troy Smith was great in leading Ohio State to an undefeated regular season, throwing for 2,542 yards, 30 TDs and six INTs. Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson, though, was incredible. He had 1,202 yards and 15 TDs, while the rest of his team combined for 1,173 yards and 10 TDs receiving. He has been among the best receivers in the NFL for his entire career.
2007: Florida’s Tim Tebow had a historic sophomore season, with 4,181 total yards, 32 passing TDs, 23 rushing TDs and six INTs. While Darren McFadden, who finished second in the Heisman voting, and Matt Ryan, who finished seventh, have both had solid NFL careers, Tebow’s absolute dominance in college cannot be overlooked.
2008: Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford put up video-game numbers, with 4,720 yards, 50 TDs and 8 INTs, leading the Sooners to 12-2 record. The first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Bradford has had an injury-riddled career thus far, but does have a 59-38 TD-INT ratio.
2009: Mark Ingram’s sophomore season was great, with 1,992 total yards and 20 TDs for a 14-0 Alabama team. Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting, terrorized opposing QBs all season long. He finished with 85 tackles, 24 for loss, 12 sacks, 10 pass breakups, three blocked kicks and one interception. In four NFL seasons, he has 27.5 sacks and two Pro Bowl appearances, while Ingram has 1,354 yards and 11 touchdowns in three seasons.
2010: Cam Newton dominated the college football season, with 2,854 yards, 30 TDs and 7 INTs, plus rushing for 1,473 yards and 20 TDs, while leading Auburn to a 14-0 season and a national title. In 2011, he was named Rookie of the Year and made the Pro Bowl.
2011: The 2011 season was all about RGIII vs. Andrew Luck, and despite Luck’s strong numbers, RGIII was superb, throwing for 4,293 yards, 37 TDs and six INTs, while rushing for 699 yards and 10 TDs. Both had great rookie seasons in the NFL, with Griffin winning Rookie of the Year, and while Luck’s sophomore season has been better than Griffin’s, it’s too early to call this battle.
2012: Johnny Football took the college football world by storm, making miracle plays and taking down mighty Alabama. His gaudy numbers – 5,116 total yards and 47 Tds – and his electric play and personality helped him easily win the Heisman Trophy.