Players Who Deserved to Win the Heisman

By Loot, College Football Handicapper,

8 Players Who Deserved to Win the Heisman Trophy

Greg Pruitt, 1971: Finishing third in the 1971 Heisman voting, Pruitt’s stats were off-the-charts. He scored 17 touchdowns on 1665 yards. But he did it on only 178 carries. That translates to an ungodly 9.4 yards per carry. And it wasn’t like the eventual winner of the Heisman in ’71 was that great. Auburn QB Pat Sullivan was a fine player, but Ed Molinaro and Pruitt seemed to have a better case. Strangely, Pruitt would come closer the following year, finishing second after running for just 938 yards.

Peyton Manning 1997: On one hand, we say defensive players should win the award more often. So giving the Heisman to Manning would would have deprived the only defensive player to ever win the award–Charles Woodson. While it’s hard to argue the excellence of Woodson’s season, there have been more ideal years to forget the big-name QB and go with the defensive player. Not sure if this was the year, however, as Manning was sterling with almost 4000 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Marshall Faulk, 1992: It just seems strange that educated observers of the game can look at Marshall Faulk and Gino Torretta and determine that Torretta was the better player. Sure, Faulk played for the San Diego State Aztecs–not the most visible team, nor one of the better ones. But his numbers were certainly worthy enough for the Heisman win. It shows that beyond the positional bias in deciding the Heisman winner, there is also a built-in favoritism toward the more glamorous teams and conferences.

Darren McFadden, 2007: Nothing against Tim Tebow, the winner of the 2007 Heisman Trophy. He certainly had a good year, but Peterson was a man against boys, as he carried the Razorbacks offense on his broad shoulders. Peterson was a workhorse, running for nearly 2000 yards. A.D. added 16 rushing touchdowns. With 325 carries, he was a workhorse who saved his best for the big games.


Chuck Muncie, 1975: The nod went to the previous year’s Heisman winner–Archie Griffin. He had a good year, but Griffin was trumped in every category by the Cal standout. Muncie, who would have a far better career in the pros than Griffin, ran for 13 touchdowns whereas Archie had only 4. Muncie also topped Griffin with 1460 yards and an average of 6.4 per rush. It would only be good for 2nd in the voting, as Griffin became the only repeat winner of the Heisman.

Larry Fitzgerald, 2003: This might be splitting hairs. The name Jason White might not mean much now, but the 2003 Heisman winner threw for almost 4000 yards and 40 touchdowns as the Sooners QB. Giving White the Heisman hardly qualifies as an injustice. Fitzgerald was less-visible playing for Pittsburgh, but his sophomore campaign saw him in great form. The wide receiver caught 92 balls for 1672 yards for an average of 18.2 yards per catch. Throw in 22 touchdowns and Fitzgerald had one of the best seasons of any WR in NCAA history. And when you watched him, it was clear that you were witnessing greatness.

OJ Simpson, 1967: You can only feel so bad about Simpson, who would go on to win the Heisman the following season. But he should have won it in 1967. The eventual winner of the award was one of the worst Heisman winners of all-time–UCLA’s Gary Beban. The Bruins QB completed a little over 50% of his passes for 1359 yards with 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Doesn’t really sound like Heisman material does it? Playing for crosstown rival USC, Simpson ran for 1415 yards and was clearly the class of the Pac-10.

Rex Grossman, 2001: Nebraska’s QB Eric Crouch was unquestionably a top field general during a time when Nebraska was a top team. But Grossman’s stats are on such a different level that it was hard to deny him his just-desserts. Grossman threw for almost 4000 yards and 34 touchdowns. The Gators QB was fantastic and while Crouch’s worth went beyond mere stats, it seems like Grossman got the shaft by finishing second to a QB who threw only 7 touchdowns against 10 picks.

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