American Football Wiki
Heisman Trophy
Awarded for The outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.
Presented by Downtown Athletic Club (1937-2001)
Yale Club (2002-2003)
The Heisman Trust (2004-current)
Location New York City
Country United States
First awarded December 9, 1935
Currently held by Johnny Manziel
Official website

The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award (usually known colloquially as the Heisman Trophy or the Heisman), named after the former Brown University and University of Pennsylvania college football player and Georgia Tech coach John Heisman, is awarded annually to the player deemed the most outstanding player in collegiate football. The award, a cast bronze statue that is 13.5 inches (34.3 cm) tall and 25 pounds (11.3 kg), is presented by the Heisman Trophy Trust in early December before the postseason bowl games.

It is the oldest of several overall awards in college football, including the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, CFPA National Performer of the Year Trophy, and the AP Player of the Year. The Heisman and the AP Player of the Year are the only awards to honor the most outstanding player, while the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award recognize the best player and the CFPA National Performer of the Year Trophy goes to the player responsible for the most team success.

Only one player has ever won the Heisman twice, Archie Griffin of the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1974 and 1975. The most recent recipient -- DeVonta Smith of the Alabama Crimson Tide, won the 2020 award as a senior.


File:OklahomaSooners-SamBradford (cropped 1).jpg

2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford

Balloting is open for all football players in all divisions of college football, though winners usually represent Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools. states that sports journalists are to be the determinants of the award since they are "informed, competent, and impartial."[1] However, fans also vote for the award; a survey collected by counts as one vote for the award. In addition, previous Heisman winners are given a vote; this includes winners who are, in many cases, also current candidates for the award. The voting is also open to commentators even though ESPN broadcasts and funds the award. The balloting process is broken into six regions, though they are not proportionate to population or the representation of Division I universities. The accounting firm Deloitte is responsible for the tabulation of votes, which has moved almost exclusively to online voting since 2007.[2]

Heisman winners and professional sports[]

Eight of the seventy four Heisman Trophy winners are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,[3] and four winners have also been named Most Valuable Player in a Super Bowl (Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen, and Desmond Howard). Some winners have gone on to play in other professional sports, including Bo Jackson in baseball and Charlie Ward in basketball.

Trophy design[]

The trophy itself, designed by sculptor Frank Eliscu, is modeled after Ed Smith, a leading player in 1934 for the now defunct New York University football team.[4] The trophy is made out of cast bronze, is 13.5 inches (34.3 cm) tall and weighs 25 pounds (11.3 kg).[4]

University success[]

The closest that a player outside the modern Division I FBS came to winning the Heisman is third place; in both cases, the players involved played for schools in what was at the time Division I-AA, now Division I FCS. The first was Gordie Lockbaum from Holy Cross in 1987, followed by Steve McNair, from Alcorn State in 1994. Armanti Edwards, from Appalachian State, was also briefly mentioned as a candidate for the award following Appalachian's upset of then ranked #5 Michigan in 2007.

Archie Griffin of Ohio State is the only player to receive the award twice, winning it as a junior in 1974 and a senior in 1975.[5] The only colleges with two different players winning the Heisman Trophy in consecutive years are Yale, Army (1945–46), and USC. Two different players from USC won the trophy in just three years (2002–04). Only two high schools have produced multiple Heisman trophy winners: Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas (1938 and 1987) and Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California (1964 and 2004).

Of all the schools where Heisman coached, only Auburn University has produced any Heisman winners, with Pat Sullivan in 1971 and again with Bo Jackson in 1985.

The player who received the most votes and won by the widest margin was O.J. Simpson of USC in 1968. The closest margin of votes was in 2009 between Mark Ingram of Alabama and Toby Gerhart of Stanford.

In addition to personal statistics, team achievements play a heavy role in the voting – a typical Heisman winner represents a team that had an outstanding season and was most likely in contention for the national championship or a major conference championship at some point in that season. Although the University of Chicago abandoned football for a long time, and is now a Division III school, and Yale and Princeton are now Division I FCS, all three schools were considered major football programs at the time their players won the award.

The service academies (Army, Navy, and more recently Air Force) still compete at the highest division but have not been considered major football powers for quite some time (though Navy has reemerged as a solidly competitive team in the early 2000s), but were once nationally dominant teams. The decline can primarily be attributed to the rise of the NFL and the difficulty it creates in recruiting high school top prospects at those schools, due to post-graduation service commitments which would delay the start of a player's NFL career. However, Army did have an advantage in the years 1942–1946 because so many college football players, and male college students in general, had left to go into military service during World War II. In addition to fielding excellent teams, Army players won the Heisman Trophies in 1945 and 1946; however, Navy didn't win any during this period. (The Air Force Academy did not exist at the time, graduating its first class in 1959.) The last service academy player to win the award was Roger Staubach (Navy) in 1963.


Most winners of the Heisman have been seniors. No freshman has ever won the award, only three[6] sophomores have, and only a few juniors. Before Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the award, several came close. Angelo Bertelli, Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard, Doak Walker, and Herschel Walker all finished in the top three of the Heisman voting as freshmen or sophomores before later winning the award. Clint Castleberry, Marshall Faulk, Michael Vick, Rex Grossman, Larry Fitzgerald, and Adrian Peterson also received top-three placement as freshmen or sophomores, but never won the Heisman. In 2006, Darren McFadden came in second to Troy Smith as a sophomore, and he is the third man to come second twice (Glenn Davis was second in 1944 and 1945 before winning in 1946 and Charlie Justice was second in 1948 and 1949). The first junior to win the award was Doc Blanchard for Army in 1945. In terms of chronological age, the oldest Heisman winner was 28-year-old Chris Weinke of Florida State in 2000; he spent six years in minor league baseball before enrolling at FSU.


The Heisman is usually awarded to a running back or a quarterback; very few players have won the trophy playing at a different position. Two tight ends have won the trophy, Larry Kelley and Leon Hart. Also, Desmond Howard and Tim Brown won as wide receivers. Charles Woodson is the only primarily defensive player to win the award, doing so as a defensive back, kick returner, and occasional wide receiver for Michigan in 1997. No interior lineman on either side of the ball has ever won the award, although the offensive guard Tom Brown of Minnesota and the offensive tackle John Hicks of Ohio State placed second in 1960 and 1973, respectively. The defensive end Hugh Green of the University of Pittsburgh finished second in 1980 and Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska finished fourth in 2009 as a defensive tackle. Also, Kurt Burris, a center for the Oklahoma Sooners, was a runner-up for the award in 1954.


File:Cappelletti Heisman Trophy.JPG

John Cappelletti's 1973 Heisman Trophy

Because of damage to the Downtown Athletic Club's facilities following 9/11, the award ceremony was moved to the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square. After the DAC declared bankruptcy in 2002, the Yale Club assumed the presenting honors at its facility in 2002 and 2003. The ceremony moved to the Hilton New York for 2004 and has been presented annually at the Nokia Theatre Times Square since 2005.

The 2008 Heisman press conference was held at the Sports Museum of America in lower Manhattan. There was an entire gallery with the museum-attraction dedicated to the Trophy, including the making of the Trophy, the history of the DAC, and information on John Heisman and all the Trophy's winners. There was also a dedicated area celebrating the most recent winner, and the opportunity for visitors to cast their vote for next winner (with the top vote-winner receiving 1 official vote on his behalf). The Sports Museum of America closed permanently in February 2009.


File:Rashaan Salaam-Heisman.JPG

Rashaan Salaam's Heisman Trophy

The award was first presented in 1935 by the Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) in Manhattan, New York, a privately owned recreation facility near the site of the former World Trade Center. It was first known simply as the DAC Trophy. The first winner, Jay Berwanger, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles but declined to sign for them. He never played professional football for any team. In 1936, John Heisman died and the trophy was renamed in his honor. Larry Kelley, the second winner of the award was the first man to win it as the "Heisman Trophy."[7]

The first African American player to win the Heisman was Syracuse's Ernie Davis, who never played a snap in the NFL. He was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after winning the award and died in 1963. In 1966, former Florida Gators quarterback Steve Spurrier gave his Heisman trophy to the university president Dr. J. Wayne Reitz so that the award could be shared by Florida students and faculty.[4] The gesture caused Florida's student government to raise funds to purchase a replacement for Spurrier.[4] Since then, the Downtown Athletic Club has issued two trophies to winners, one to the individual and a replica to the school.[4]

Several Heisman trophies have been sold over the years. O.J. Simpson's 1968 trophy was sold in February 1999 for $230,000 as part of the settlement of the civil trial in the O.J. Simpson murder case.[4] Yale end Larry Kelley sold his 1936 Heisman in December 1999 for the sum of $328,110 to settle his estate and to provide a bequeathment for his family.[4] Charles White's 1979 trophy first sold for $184,000 and then for nearly $300,000 in December 2006 to help pay back federal income taxes.[4] The current record price for a Heisman belongs to the trophy won by Minnesota halfback Bruce Smith in 1941 at $395,240.[4] Paul Hornung sold his Heisman for $250,000 to endow student scholarships for University of Notre Dame students from his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.[4] Eliscu's original plaster cast sold at Sotheby's for $228,000 in December 2005.[4]

Television coverage[]

The presentation of the Heisman trophy was not broadcast on television until 1977.[8] Before 1977, the presentation of the award wasn't televised as a stand-alone special, but rather as a quick in-game feature. The ceremony usually aired on ABC as a feature at halftime of the last major national telecast (generally a rivalry game) of the college football season. ABC essentially, just showed highlights since the award was handed out as part of an annual weeknight dinner at the Heisman Club. At the time, the event had usually been scheduled for the week following the Army–Navy Game.

On December 8, 1977, CBS (who paid US $200,000 for the rights) aired a one hour (at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time) special to celebrate the presentation of the Heisman trophy. Elliot Gould and O.J. Simpson were the co-hosts, with Connie Stevens and Leslie Uggams providing musical entertainment and Robert Klein comic relief.

Since then, a number of companies have provided television coverage of the event:

  • CBS (1977–1980)
  • ABC (1981–1984) – owned-and-operated stations only
  • Syndication (1981–1985)
  • NBC (1985) – owned-and-operated stations only
  • CBS (1986–1991)
  • NBC (1992–1994)
  • ESPN (1995–present)

Controversy and politics[]

Regional bias controversy[]

A number of critics have expressed concern about the unwritten rules regarding player position and age, as noted above. But over the years, there has been substantial criticism that the Heisman balloting process has ignored West Coast players.[9][10] From 1981 (Marcus Allen) to 2002 (Carson Palmer), not a single Pacific-10 Conference or other West Coast player won the Heisman Trophy, although two from the Rocky Mountains did, Brigham Young's Ty Detmer in 1990, and Colorado's Rashaan Salaam in 1994. Three Southern California (USC) players have won the trophy in the early years of the 21st century and two won it subsequent to Palmer, but no non-USC player from the West Coast has won since Stanford's Jim Plunkett in 1970, with the closest since then being Toby Gerhart, another Stanford player who was second in the closest finish in Heisman history in 2009.

The West Coast bias discussion usually centers on the idea that East Coast voters see few West Coast games, because of television coverage contracts, time zone differences, or cultural interest. At Heisman-projection Web site, commentator Kari Chisholm notes that the Heisman balloting process itself is inherently biased:[11]

For Heisman voting purposes, the nation is divided into six regions—each of which get 145 votes. Put another way, each region gets exactly 16.67 percent of the votes. However, each region does not constitute an even one-sixth of the population. Three regions (Far West, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic) have larger populations than that – and three have less (Northeast, South, and Southwest). In fact, the Far West has the greatest population at 21.1% of the country and the Northeast has the least – 11.9%.

Vacation of 2005 award[]

A historic first occurred in 2010 when University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden announced the university would return its replica of the 2005 Heisman Trophy due to NCAA sanctions requiring the university to dissociate itself with Reggie Bush. On September 14, Bush issued a statement that he would forfeit his title as a Heisman winner and return the trophy. The next day, the Heisman Trust vacated Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy and removed all mention of the 2005 award from its official website.

Critical responses from the national media were strident and variable. producer J. Darin Darst opined that, "He (Bush) should never have been pressured to return the award." Kalani Simpson of Fox Sports wrote, "Nice try Heisman Trust...It's a slick move to try to wipe the slate clean." Football Writers Association of America Past-President Dennis Dodd, on the other hand, decided to fictitiously award Bush's vacated 2005 award to Vince Young. He wrote, "Since the Heisman folks won't re-vote, we did. Vince Young is the new winner of the 2005 Heisman." An LA Times piece argued that Bush's Heisman was "tainted" but lamented the decision coming 5 years ex post facto.[12][13][14][15]



  1.,, Retrieved September 2, 2010
  2.,, Retrieved September 1, 2010
  3. Heisman Trophy winners in the HOF. Retrieved on 2008-02-19.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 John D. Lukacs (2007-12-07). From the legendary to the little-known, Heisman history is never dull. ESPN. Retrieved on 2008-02-19.
  5. 1974 & 1975 - 40th & 41st Awards. Retrieved on 2008-02-19.
  7. Heisman Trophy. Retrieved on 2008-01-06. [dead link]
  8. Heisman Trophy Presentation broadcast history?
  9., Seattle Times, Bob Condotta, Retrieved 2 Oct 2010.
  10., San Jose Mercury News, John Wilner, Retrieved 2 Oct 2010.
  11. West Coast Bias. StiffArmTrophy. Archived from the original on 2007-08-08. Retrieved on 2007-11-20.
  12., Huffington Post, Retrieved September 28, 2010
  13.,, Retrieved September 28, 2010
  14.,, Retrieved September 28, 2010
  15., LA Times, Retrieved September 28, 2010

External links[]