A Complete Guide To Heisman Trophy Winners

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Most sports in North America have a minor league which is still professional but considered to be a tier below the premier league in that sport. Football, uniquely, doesn’t function that way and as a result, college football is considered to be the second tier of football below the NFL in the U.S.A. and Canada.

As a result, college football has its own set of awards and trophies, the most prestigious individual of those being The Heisman Trophy.

Everything you need to know about the Heisman Trophy

Every year, the Heisman is awarded to the most outstanding player in college football. The word ‘outstanding’ is key here because it doesn’t mean the best or most valuable. In fact, those abilities have their own awards. Some of the criteria that come into play are ability, perseverance, and work ethic. Factors that can influence the decision are what position you play, what school you play for, and what your record is. Naturally, more offensive positions and more popular schools have more eyes on them. In fact, this has been a point of controversy before, with some arguing that players on the West Coast get less attention and that the voting procedure is inherently biased.

Every year, the winner of the Heisman is decided by 870 sportswriters (145 from each of the 6 regions), the previous winners of the trophy (of which there are 85), and the fans, who collectively make up just one vote.

Despite the fact that there have been 85 Heisman winners to date, the award has been given out 86 times. This is because of Ohio State’s Archie Griffin, the only player to ever win the award twice. He did this in 1974 and 1975.


In terms of schools with the most wins, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Oklahoma each have seven Heisman Trophies. USC previously had seven, but Reggie Bush vacated the award the year he won, leaving them in second place with six. Bush was receiving gifts from agents while still in college. His college received major sanctions for this and amidst the talk of stripping the award from him, he chose to vacate it on his own accord.

The Heisman Trophy is not only the most prestigious because of all it takes into consideration, but because it is the oldest of all college football awards, including the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, and the AP Player Of The Year.

The trophy itself is designed by Frank Eliscu and is modeled after Ed Smith, who was a top player for NYU in 1934. The pair were teammates at George Washington High School and when Eliscu asked Smith to model for him for something, he had no idea what it was for. It’s made from cast bronze and weighs 45 pounds. Smith was given a Heisman in 1985.

The last 15 years of Heisman winners

Tim Tebow, 2007

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Gators Wire
  • School: Florida
  • Draft pick: 25th

Tim Tebow is one of the best and most decorated college players in football history and has had one of the stranger NFL careers in history. He has only spent a few years actually in the league. After six years out, he returned in May of 2021, only to be released later the same year. Fans will never forget his prime though when Tebow Time was coined.

Sam Bradford, 2008

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Bleacher Report
  • School: Oklahoma
  • Draft pick: 1st

When he won the Heisman, Sam Bradford was just the second sophomore to do so, after Tim Tebow the previous year. He spent 9 years in the league, having his best times with the Rams and the Vikings. He had a decent career, but his last stint with the Cardinals is considered one of the worst free-agent signings of the last decade.

Mark Ingram Jr., 2009

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USA Today
  • School: Alabama
  • Draft pick: 28th

Mark Ingram Jr. was projected as a first-round pick but ended up being picked 28th in the first round. Ingram Jr. has spent most of his time in the NFL with the Saints, with who he was with from 2011-2018, and went back to last year. In between, he spent time with the Ravens and the Texans. 

Cam Newton, 2010

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Charlotte Observer
  • School: Auburn
  • Draft pick: 1st

Cam Newton was the most recent Heisman winner that made it to the Super Bowl (until the Bengals) which he did at Super Bowl 50 with the Carolina Panthers in 2015. He’s also been an NFL MVP, which is an incredible achievement that few ever get. When things got dicey with the Panthers, he proved himself once again with the Patriots.

Robert Griffin III, 2011

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Hogs Haven
  • School: Baylor
  • Draft pick: 2nd

Griffin III was selected 2nd overall by the Commanders (when they were still the Redskins) in 2012 and until 2021, he had a solid career with Washington, Cleveland, and Baltimore. His rookie year was especially great, but things went downhill for him since then due to injuries and problems with Washington staff.

Johnny Manziel, 2012

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Sporting News
  • School: Texas A&M
  • Draft pick: 22nd

In December of 2012, Johnny Manziel made history when he became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman. Up until that point, college players had only done this in their sophomore, junior, and senior years. As polarising as he was, Johnny Manziel’s 2-year NFL career didn’t match his college success, and some would argue that it never could have anyway. He currently plays in the FCF.

Jameis Winston, 2013

Who Dat Dish
  • School: Florida State
  • Draft pick: 1st

In college, Winston threw for over 4,000 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. This was enough for him to be the #1 draft pick by the Buccaneers. Unfortunately, in his five seasons with Tampa Bay, he helped them to just one winning season. He currently plays for the Saints.

Marcus Mariota, 2014

Oregon LIve
  • School: Oregon
  • Draft pick: 2nd

Marcus Mariota currently plays as a backup for the Los Vegas Raiders who he signed with after a five-year stint with the Titans. Unfortunately, Tennessee seemed to do better with him on the bench, which was disappointing after his run at Oregon.

Derrick Henry, 2015

USA Today
  • School: Alabama
  • Draft pick: 45th

It’s quite rare for a running back (or anyone who isn’t a QB) to win the Heisman, but Derrick Henry did just that in 2015 out of Alabama. In terms of his NFL career, he took a while to get going but has been great for his last few seasons with the Titans. In 2019, he rushed for over 1,540 yards and had 16 touchdowns.

Lamar Jackson, 2016

The Spun
  • School: Louisville
  • Draft pick: 32nd

Lamar Jackson had an unbelievable run at Louisville, putting up crazy numbers. Expectations for him in the NFL were high and incredibly, for the most part, he has met them. He has helped form the Ravens into a better team and won the MVP award unanimously, something only he and Tom Brady have ever done.

Baker Mayfield, 2017

NBC News
  • School: Oklahoma
  • Draft pick: 1st

In his college years, Mayfield led Oklahoma to the Rose Bowl against Georgia. They lost, but he still showed out and was the #1 draft pick. In the NFL, he has slowly been making the Browns better and giving them their best season records in years.

2021 was a down year for Mayfield and the Browns but they'll look to bounce back in 2022.

Kyler Murray, 2018

New York Post
  • School: Oklahoma
  • Draft pick: 1st

Murray was the #1 draft pick, which is even more amazing when you consider that he was choosing between football and baseball in college. He’s spent all of his NFL time with the Arizona Cardinals and has been exceeding expectations with them, making the playoffs once and the Pro Bowl multiple times.

Joe Burrow, 2019

Sky Sports
  • School: LSU
  • Draft pick: 1st

Joe Burrow is undoubtedly one of the best college quarterbacks of all time. He completed 76.3% of his passes for over 5,600 yards and had a whopping 60 touchdowns. He and LSU looked immortal in their run. Naturally, he was the 1st draft pick.

DeVonta Smith, 2020

Bleacher Report
  • School: Alabama
  • Draft pick: 10th

When he won the Heisman in 2020, DeVonta Smith became the first wide receiver to do so since Desmond Howard in 1991. Of course, he just finished his first season in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and he had a good run, setting the team’s rookie record for most receiving yards in a season.

Bryce Young, 2021

The Boston Globe
  • School: Alabama
  • Draft pick: TBD

When Bryce Young won the Heisman last year, he became the first Alabama quarterback to ever do so. Of course, he hasn’t had his rookie NFL season or even been drafted yet, but hopes are high for the Philadelphian.

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