Over the years the Heisman Trophy has been taken home by some amazing football players like Doak Walker, Roger Staubach, O.J. Simpson, Tony Dorsett, Barry Sanders, and many more. It has also been taken home by some guys who may have had a great college career but did nothing in the NFL. You know who we're talking about here: players like Gino Toretta, Danny Wuerffel, Andre Ware, and even Archie Griffin, who won the Heisman twice in the '70s but never was more than a competent running back in the NFL. And let's not forget more recent examples like Johnny Manziel and Matt Leinart.
The Heisman Trophy was created in 1935 and is awarded for “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” Since 2000, some great players have taken home the hardware, with many of them among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks today. Others haven’t been in the league for a long time and are doing something else completely. And since the Heisman has been around for a good eight-plus decades, we're going to keep things simple and focus on all the Heisman winners of the 21st century, recall what they did in their heyday, and look at what they're doing now.
17 2000 – Chris Weinke
Quarterback Chris Weinke won the Heisman Trophy in 2000 while playing for Florida State University. As a junior he led the Seminoles to the national championship over the Virginia Tech Hokies, who were led by Michael Vick. Weinke was also the oldest Heisman Trophy winner at the time at 28 years old.
With his age being a huge factor, he wasn’t drafted until the 4th round by the Carolina Panthers, where he spent most of his career before finishing out with the San Francisco 49ers in 2007. After retiring he was a vice-president of marketing and event planning for Triton Financial. Weinke teamed up with John Madden to become the director of the IMG Madden Football Academy in 2010 where he worked with future Heisman winner Cam Newton. From 2015 to 2016 Weinke served as the quarterbacks coach for the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams. In 2017 he took a job as an offensive analyst for the University of Alabama.
16 2001 – Eric Crouch
Eric Crouch was an option quarterback who won the Heisman playing for Nebraska in 2001. He also won the Davey O’Brien Award and Walter Camp Award the same year. In that same year he passed for just over 1,500 yards and seven touchdowns, but ran for an amazing 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns. Crouch set several records and won lots of awards, but his NFL career never got off the ground after falling to the third round and going to the St. Louis Rams. He was cut by the Rams, Green Bay Packers, and Kansas City Chiefs without playing in a game.
Crouch was considered too short to play QB in the pros and then went to the Hamburg Sea Devils of the NFL Europe, then moving on to the Canadian Football League, All-American Football League, and United Football League. Crouch became a sales territory manager in the medical industry and sells recreation and playground equipment at Crouch Recreation in Omaha. He has also served as a broadcaster for FX.
15 2002 – Carson Palmer
Based on the fact that quarterback Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy way back in 2002, you might be surprised that he is still a top QB in the NFL today if you haven’t been following the league. Palmer won his Heisman playing at USC and had his #3 retired by the Trojans. The next year he was the #1 overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played until 2010. He spent some time playing for the Oakland Raiders from 2011 to 2012 before joining the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. Palmer is still the starter in Arizona, although his age (37) and health don’t guarantee him to keep that position for many more years. He is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and led the league in touchdowns and was named AFC Player of the Year in 2005.
14 2003 – Jason White
Quarterback Jason White is certainly not a very memorable Heisman Trophy winner. He won the award playing for Oklahoma and was also named AP Player of the Year, Sporting News Player of the Year, and a Unanimous All-American in 2003. White also won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Maxwell Award in 2004 and was a Davey O’Brien Award winner both years. While he played at Oklahoma, the team won the BCS National Championship once and lost the championship game two other times.
White was not drafted, and didn’t even receive any tryouts in the NFL at first. He was signed by the Tennessee Titans as a free agent but he quit the sport due to having weak knees. He owns and operates Jason White Companies which include retail stores. White also co-founded St. Anthony Hospital’s YourCARE Clinic community health centers. He co-owned the Indoor Football League’s Bricktown Brawlers as well. A statue of White was erected on campus in 2007.
13 2004 – Matt Leinart
Quarterback Matt Leinart was the first of back-to-back USC Heisman winners in 2004. He led the team to the BCS National Championship the same year, although it was later vacated. Leinart won two AP National Championships at USC and racked up several awards before eventually having his #11 retired by the school. His NFL career, however, was far less successful than his college days.
Leinart was drafted #10 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2006. He played there until 2009 and then played for the Houston Texans from 2010 to 2011 and for the Oakland Raiders in 2012. Leinart finished his NFL career with more interceptions than touchdowns, underscoring his bust status. In 2014 he became a studio analyst for the Pac-12 Network and has been a regular on the podcast Pardon My Take. Leinart is preparing to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
12 2005 – Reggie Bush (vacated)
We are supposed to pretend like Reggie Bush never won the Heisman Trophy in 2005, but it’s hard to forget something ever happened. He dominated the Heisman voting in 2005 after winning two National championships at USC. In 2005 Bush was also won the Doak Walker Award, Walter Camp Award, AP Player of the Year, and Sporting News Player of the Year. Allegations about him receiving improper benefits led Bush to forfeit the Heisman Trophy.
He was drafted #2 overall by the New Orleans Saints where he played from 2006 to 2010. Bush also played for the Miami Dolphins from 2011 to 2012, the Detroit Lions from 2013 to 2014, the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, and the Buffalo Bills in 2016. He is currently a free agent and should be able to get some type of media role if he decides to retire.
11 2006 – Troy Smith
Troy Smith was a quarterback who could also run the option for Ohio State. He won the Heisman in 2006 and played his final game in the BCS National Championship Game losing to Florida. Smith won several other awards at Ohio State and was drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. He played there until 2009 and then for the San Francisco 49ers in 2010. Smith didn’t see much time on the field and joined the United Football League’s Omaha Nighthawks in 2011. He then played for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League from 2013 to 2014. More recently, he served as an advocate for the FIT Kids Act. In 2016 he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, improper display of license tags, and operating a vehicle under the influence.
10 2007 – Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow is probably the most hyped Heisman Trophy winner on this list. He won the award in 2007 while playing for Florida, where he won two BCS national championships in 2006 and 2008. Tebow racked up all kinds of awards and many people though he would be the next great NFL quarterback. He was drafted in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos and led them to a memorable win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime in the playoffs. Tebow also played for the New York Jets in 2012 and was signed by the New England Patriots in 2013 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 although he did not make the rosters. In 2013 he joined ESPN as a college football analyst who appeared on the SEC Network. In 2016 he started to pursue a career in professional baseball. He signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets and played with the team during spring training in 2017.
9 2008 – Sam Bradford
Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy playing quarterback for Oklahoma in 2008 when he was also named the Associated Press Player of the Year, Sporting News Player of the Year, Consensus All-American, First-team All-Big 12, and won the Davey O’Brien Award. All in all, it looked like his success would translate to the NFL.
Bradford was the #1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams and won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He played for the Rams from 2010 to 2014 before joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 and the Minnesota Vikings in 2016. He became the starter for the Vikings in 2016 after Teddy Bridgewater was injured. He went on to have his best season to date, with 20 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions, and had his most career passing yards in a single season at 3,877. Bradford even set an NFL record for single-season completion percentage at 71.6 in 2016.
8 2009 – Mark Ingram Jr.
Mark Ingram won the Heisman as a running back at Alabama in 2009, and also won the BCS national championship the same year. He was a very talented player in college and was named Sporting News Player of the Year and SEC Offensive Player of the Year. Ingram was drafted in the 1st round by the New Orleans Saints in 2011.
Ingram has remained with the team since then, racking up 32 rushing touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards. Ingram has split time often, but was the starter in 2016 when he had his first 1,000+ yard season. In 2014 he was named to the Pro Bowl. Ingram has been a decent back in the NFL but hasn’t quite lived up to his college career.
7 2010 – Cam Newton
Cam Newton has become one of the faces of the NFL, but he started his path to success in college when he won the Heisman Trophy in 2010 at Auburn, after first playing for Florida and then Blinn College. Newton led the team to the BCS National Championship in 2011 and was the #1 pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2011 NFL Draft. He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and in 2015 he was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year and NFL Most Valuable Player.
Newton led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50, though unfortunately, the team came up short against the Denver Broncos. As he's lived up to the hype and become a three-time Pro Bowl selection, he's had a good career as a quarterback, his somewhat subpar 2016 notwithstanding. Newton holds a long list of NFL records already, but feels he is unfairly targeted and may not play as long as some would like.
6 2011 – Robert Griffin III
RG3 is another one of those guys that was really hyped coming out of college after winning his Heisman Trophy at Baylor in 2011. He was the #2 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins and went on to become the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and make the Pro Bowl that year. After that things really went downhill for Griffin who suffered serious injuries and hasn’t been able to stay healthy ever since.
Griffin stayed in Washington in 2015, where he didn't play a down behind Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy, then joined the Cleveland Browns in 2016, where injuries again affected his play and shortened his season. Despite his very promising start, Griffin is widely considered to be a bust and has only played in one playoff game during his rookie season. He was released by the Browns in March 2017 and it remains to be seen if his NFL career will continue or he’ll have to find something else to do.
5 2012 – Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel has basically been the laughing stock of sports these past several years. He won the Heisman Trophy as quarterback at Texas A&M in 2012 when he also racked up several other awards and accolades. Manziel was drafted in the 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. “Johnny Football” only started two games that year and played in five, throwing no touchdowns.
In 2015 he played in 10 games starting six with a very average campaign. Manziel has been plagued by the off the field issues and seemed to be more interested in partying than focusing on his football career. After he was released by the Browns he went back to Texas A&M as a student. It seems unlikely that he will ever return to the NFL.
4 2013 – Jameis Winston
“Famous Jameis” won the Heisman Trophy in 2013 playing quarterback for Florida State. He also won the BCS national championship the same year and racked up several other awards. Winston was the #1 pick of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year and selected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. It appears Winston will turn out to be a pretty solid NFL quarterback and will likely be the Bucs’ starter for some time to come. He started all 16 games in both 2015 and 2016, putting up 50 touchdowns total over a pair of 4,000+ yard seasons. He can also run quite a bit, but had a lot more rushing TDs his first year. He’s even set a handful of NFL and Buccaneers records already.
3 2014 – Marcus Mariota
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota took home the Heisman Trophy in 2014 when he also won many other awards including the AP Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, and more. He set lots of records at Oregon and was drafted #2 overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 NFL Draft. He started 12 games in 2015 and 15 in 2016, throwing for 45 touchdowns and just 19 interceptions. He looks like he has a promising future and the Titans are getting better thanks to their two stud running backs in DeMarco Murray and fellow Heisman winner Derrick Henry. In week 16 Mariota was carted off and placed on injured reserve with a broken right fibula. Hopefully he can be fully healthy for the start of the 2017 season.
2 2015 – Derrick Henry
Running back Derrick Henry won the Heisman Trophy in 2015 when his Alabama Crimson Tide also won the CFP national championship. He set SEC records that season with 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns. In the championship game he turned in a performance of 158 yards and three touchdowns to become the career rushing leader at Alabama. Henry was drafted in the 2nd round by the Tennessee Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft, teaming him up with fellow Heisman winner Marcus Mariotta. Henry started out backing up veteran DeMarco Murray and gradually got more playing time over the season to finish just shy of 500 yards and five touchdowns. He looks to have a promising future, especially if Murray retires anytime soon.
1 2016 – Lamar Jackson
The latest Heisman Trophy winner was Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who also won the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Associated Press Player of the Year, Sporting News Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Unanimous All-American, and First-team All-ACC in 2016. Jackson did all of this as a sophomore. In his first two seasons at Louisville he has thrown for more than 5,000 yards and ran for nearly 2,500. He has also posted 42 passing touchdowns and 32 rushing touchdowns. He won’t be eligible for the NFL Draft until 2018 so he has one more year at Louisville to add to his impressive stats. It’s tough for option quarterbacks to make it in the NFL, but Jackson hopes to become the exception.
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