It’s college football’s most prestigious individual achievement award. It’s highly publicized, ceremoniously presented, and football fans everywhere anticipate it, sometimes debate the outcome, always revere it’s tradition. But, what do we actually know about it?
First bestowed in 1935 by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City, the trophy wasn’t given it’s name until the following year in memory of club member, award founder, college football player, coach, and game rules originator, John W. Heisman. That takes care of the history.
The electoral process assures a vote free of regional bias. The country is divided into six regions with a media member of note in charge of each. It is the responsibility of each rep to select a group of knowledgeable voters from the football reporting media in each.
Presently, 941 votes are cast. There’s the process.
There have been 71 Heismans awarded. The individuality we covet in this team game, is graphically depicted in the positions of the winner. Running backs have 41 trophies and 23 went to quarter backs. Confirms what’s considered essential to winning. In 1997, Charles Woodsen of Michigan became the only defensive player to win the award.
What about the winners? For too many, after finishing college, the cheering stopped.
Eric Crouch (2001) hasn’t played in the NFL, is hoping to catch on in the Canadian League. Josh White (2003) never played a game after college. The only two time winner Archie Griffin (1974 1975) hung on through several dismal seasons with the Bengals. Gino Torretta (1992) got into 2 NFL games over 4 years. Gary Beban (1967) rode the bench for 2 NFL seasons. Terry Baker (1962) didn’t stick with the Rams and went to the Canadian League. Andre Ware (1989) signed a big contract then sat on the bench for 4 seasons before retiring. Rashaan Salaam (1994) had a short, uneventful career marred by substance abuse suspensions. Joe Bellino (1960) carried the 30 times over 3 seasons before calling it quits. Five of the first 15 winners chose other careers.
O.J. Simpson (1968) never understood what it meant.