Every sport has atleast one exclusive club that separates itself from all of the other ones in their particular sport. When it comes to football, there probably isn't a more exclusive club than the fraternity of players who have won a Heisman Trophy. Although being a success as a result of winning this award isn't guaranteed, it certainly puts the players who win it in a good position to propel themselves to a level above their contemporaries. However, for every Heisman Trophy winner who becomes a superstar in the NFL, there are some who have stories that get lost in the back pages of the history books. These are the players whose name gets placed next to words "Heisman Bust" in the dictionary.
Although winning the Heisman is a great achievement, it also comes with a lot of pressure attached to it. Some players are ready for that level of pressure and attention while others just don't have the skill or drive to take their talent to the next level.
This list not only showcases the obvious Heisman stories that everybody knows, it also digs into the history books and reveals stories that may be unknown or forgotten. Although the players on this list share a special bond with each other, they don't all share the same level of post collegiate success. This is the story of 25 players who have either come out on the other side of their Heisman Trophy win with glory or have failed to live up to the hype surrounding this illustrious award.
25 Bust - Johnny Manziel
The rise and fall of this former Heisman winner has been well documented. Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football, went from being the toast of college football to just another quarterback trying to make it in the CFL up north.
After winning many awards for his play during his tenure at Texas A&M, Manziel’s career was never the same.
Reckless behavior off the field plus poor play on the field wound up being the downfall of his NFL career. This polarizing former first round draft pick is now trying to build himself up again with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. That is a long way from his glory days at Texas A&M.
24 Bust - Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III, aka RG3, was arguably one of the most exciting players in the NFL for a brief period of time. He was electrifying during his rookie season in Washington back in 2012. However, a series of unfortunate injuries and poor play, Griffin wound up being benched in favor of Kirk Cousins.
After trying to revive his career in Cleveland during the 2015 season, this former number 2 overall pick out of Baylor wound up out of football altogether in 2017. Today he is assuming a backup role in Baltimore and hoping to get one more shot as a starter in the NFL.
23 Star - Cam Newton
Cam Newton’s success goes well beyond being a Heisman Trophy winner or number 1 draft pick. After enjoying a standout career at Auburn, this 1 time national champion has kept his excellent career intact as the starting quarterback with the Carolina Panthers. Although not every season has been easy for Newton, he has taken the league by storm with his excellent play, leadership, and for giving a game ball to a lucky fan after he scores a touchdown. Despite coming up short of a Super Bowl victory after his MVP season in 2015, Newton continues to be one of the best players in the league.
22 Bust - Tim Tebow
This former Heisman winner has had quite a polarizing athlete in career. Although there were many doubts about the potential this former first round pick had, it never stopped Tim Tebow from trying to prove himself.
Despite having some success once given a chance to play, this former Florida Gator just couldn’t seem to win over enough skeptics.
Although he has put his football playing days behind him, Tebow is still chasing after his pro sports dreams as a baseball player for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. After enjoying a solid first half of the season, Tebow earned himself an Eastern League All Star nod in 2018.
21 Bust - Matt Leinart
There were a lot of high expectations placed on this former Heisman winner after enjoying so much success at USC during the mid 2000s. Matt Leinart’s excellent play during his years with the Trojans didn’t seem to translate to the pro game. After spending a few season in the NFL as a journeyman quarterback, this former national champion and number 1 pick found himself out of the game. Despite falling short on the expectations placed on him, Leinart has moved on to become a respected studio analyst for Fox Sports.
20 Star - Carson Palmer
This former number 1 overall draft pick and Heisman winner may not have won a championship at the college or pro levels, but he did make a mark with every team he played on. From the USC Trojans to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, Carson Palmer was always able to elevate the level of play of each team he played on. This is especially noteworthy since he was even able to lead perennial losing teams like the Bengals and Cardinals to playoff berths. That in itself makes Palmer a Heisman success story. Imagine what he could have accomplished if it wasn't for injuries?
19 Bust - Ron Dayne
Ron Dayne was rarely seen on the field after being apart of the “Thunder and Lightining” backfield of the New York Giants during his rookie season. So much so that most people probably don’t know that he played for seven more seasons, including stints with the Broncos and Texans.
This former Heisman Trophy winning first round draft pick out of Wisconsin barely made a sound after sharing the backfield with Tiki Barber in 2000.
Despite becoming the number 1 rusher in Division 1A history, Dayne was unable to maintain the same kind of dominance in the NFL.
18 Bust - Charlie Ward
Calling Charlie Ward a bust seems unfair. Despite not playing in the NFL, Ward is far from a bust as a professional athlete. This former Heisman winner did in fact get drafted in the first round. However, it wasn’t in the NFL, it was in the NBA. Ward enjoyed a notable NBA career that included 10 seasons with the New York Knicks. Although this Florida State standout’s football career stalled after leading the Seminoles to their first national championship, it wasn’t the end of the line for his professional career. Earning the distinction as the only Heisman winner to play in the NBA also makes Ward very unique within the Heisman fraternity.
17 Star - Charles Woodson
When looking back on his career, it seems like Charles Woodson accomplished pretty much everything a football player could do. He won a Super Bowl and a national title. Woodson was an All Pro and won numerous awards leading up to his Heisman Trophy win. Charles Woodson is not only a Heisman success story, he is a football success story. He's arguably one of the most successful Heisman winners of all time considering his resume. Although Woodson won his only Super Bowl as a member of the Green Bay Packers, most football fans will probably remember him for his days in the silver and black.
16 Bust - Andre Ware
When football fans think of Andre Ware, they probably think of his days at the University of Houston, not his time with the Detroit Lions.
Despite breaking several NCAA passing records during his college days, Andre Ware's exceptional skill just didn't translate to the pro game.
Whether it was due to the fact the Lions offense didn't suit his playing style or if he just wasn't an NFL quarterback, Andre Ware ultimately wound up being another Heisman bust. Although he was out of the NFL after a few seasons, he did manage to win a Grey Cup with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts in 1997.
15 Bust - Chris Weinke
Chris Weinke traveled down an unusual path to his Heisman Trophy success in 2000. After pursuing a baseball career in the Toronto Blue Jays Minor League system during the early 90's, Weinke decided to head back to Florida State in the late 90s. He then lead the Seminoles to an undefeated national championship season in 1999.
Despite not winning the national championship again during his senior year, he did manage to become the oldest Heisman Trophy winner in history. Sadly, entering the NFL at an older age didn't translate to success as he found himself out of the league after a few subpar seasons.
14 Star - Eddie George
There might be some argument as to whether Eddie George is a Hall of Famer, but there is no doubt that this former Ohio State Buckeye and Tennessee Titan is a Heisman Success story. Although he never won a national championship or Super Bowl, George was a prolific running back for much of his college and pro career. The only times this gritty running back didn't rush for 1,000 yards or more is when the carries didn't come his way. He was a big reason why the Titans were successful during the late 90s and early 2000s.
13 Bust - Danny Wuerffel
Despite having so much success during his days with the Florida Gators, Danny Wuerffell was nothing more than a well traveled backup quarterback in the NFL.
After being drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1997, Wuerffel had trouble finding an NFL home.
Success also eluded him with the exception of leading the Rhein Fire to a World Bowl Championship in 2000. He even won MVP of the game as well. However, Danny Wuerffel just couldn't find a home in the NFL. This Heisman Trophy winner did find some success after college, but not in the league that matters most: the NFL.
12 Bust - Troy Smith
Although Troy Smith won the Heisman Trophy with the most first place votes in history, some might argue that the class he was apart of wasn't the strongest. With players like Darren McFadden and Brady Quinn placing behind him in voting, it is easy to see why Smith might have been able to pull it off. However, he didn't capitalize on this victory when moving on to the NFL.
After being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2007 draft, Smith could never find a home. He eventually wound up finishing his playing career with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.
11 Star - Desmond Howard
It's hard to think of Desmond Howard without thinking of the Heisman Trophy. After doing the "Heisman Pose" in a game during the 1991 season, Howard elevated himself as a figure in popular culture. He then continued to backup his Heisman play by becoming a Super Bowl MVP in the NFL a few years later. Although he wasn't a dangerous threat as a receiver and is certainly not a Hall of Famer, Desmond Howard was always feared as a punt and kick return specialist. This proves that you don't necessarily have to put up incredible numbers in the pros in order to be considered a Heisman success story.
10 Bust - Gino Torretta
Football fans had every reason to believe Gino Toretta would become an NFL star after winning two national championships for the University of Miami and a Heisman Trophy in 1992. However, NFL teams saw things a little differently.
Despite all of his success, Toretta wasn't even selected until the 7th round the 1993 Draft.
Toretta barely ever saw any playing time in an NFL game despite being in the league for several seasons. After serving as a journeyman backup quarterback for several NFL teams, Toretta ultimately retired in the late 90s.
9 Star - Barry Sanders
There isn't much to say about this Heisman Trophy winner that probably hasn't been said already. Barry Sanders is arguably one of the best running backs in football history. Whether you are talking about his days with the Oklahoma Sooners or dazzling NFL career with the Detroit Lions, Barry Sanders made his mark and impressed all who watched him play. Sanders is still one of the only running backs to rush for over 2,000 year in a season. Sadly, the only thing that eluded him was winning a national championship or Super Bowl. However, this hasn't diminished all of the amazing things he did accomplish on the field.
8 Bust - Jason White
The story of Jason White might not be so much a story of a player who was a bust as it is a player who experienced bad luck. Despite putting up excellent numbers during his junior and senior seasons with the Oklahoma Sooners, Jason White couldn't make a case for himself as a potential NFL quarterback. The fact that he had so much success despite experiencing multiple ACL tears in his knees says a lot about him. Jason White accomplished a lot more than some players who have good health experience. Unfortunately, despite his feel good comeback story, White is still a Heisman bust.
7 Star - Tim Brown
There aren't too many wide receivers who rank ahead of this Heisman Trophy winner. After becoming a standout at Notre Dame, Tim Brown spent the majority of his amazing NFL career with the Raiders.
Although he started off his career as more of a kick return specialist, Brown soon established himself as one of the most reliable wide receivers in the game.
By the time he retired in the mid 2000s, Tim Brown was at or near the top of just about every significant receiving category. He eventually earned himself a trip to the football Hall of Fame in 2015.
6 Bust - Eric Crouch
Eric Crouch might have been the most untraditional quarterback in college football history. Although he managed to get the job done by using his running ability as much as passing, it didn't help him to gain the kind of attention he needed to pursue an NFL career. Crouch was also unwilling to play any other position. As a result, Eric Crouch spent most of his professional career playing in leagues such as NFL Europe and the CFL. Eric Crouch might have been exciting to watch during his days with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but it didn't translate to success after his Heisman Trophy win.
5 Star - Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson might be the only player on this list who is known just as much for his success on a real football field as he is on a virtual football field. Thanks to being practically invincible on the video game Tecmo Bowl, the legend of Bo Jackson continues to be told despite a career shortened by a terrible hip injury during a playoff game.
Bo Jackson is still considered by many to be one of the best athletes to ever play any sport.
Jackson was not only a Heisman success story who did well in the NFL, he also spent several summers playing Major League Baseball as well.
4 Bust - Ricky Williams
Depending on your outlook, Ricky Williams might not be considered a bust. However, considering the incredible numbers he put up with the University of Texas, including a senior season where he rushed for over 2300 yards, Williams probably should have had a more illustrious career. Off the field issues might have kept this Heisman Trophy winner from obtaining true greatness. However, despite his unusual behavior, Williams still managed to put up a few 1,000 rushing seasons. Perhaps the expectations have been set too high in this case, but the general consensus on Ricky Williams is that he was ultimately a Heisman bust.
3 Star - Marcus Allen
Marcus Allen is another Heisman Trophy winner who seemed to accomplish everything during his football career. Between winning a national championship with the USC Trojans and a Super Bowl MVP performance with the Raiders, there isn't much Allen didn't do. He even won the NFL MVP and Offensive Player Of The Year in 1985. Despite a rocky relationship with Raiders owner Al Davis, Marcus Allen continued to play hard when given the chance. After finishing up his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, Allen was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
2 Bust - Ty Detmer
Ty Detmer might have had a long playing career, but he isn't known for having a lot of success beyond his days with Brigham Young University. After winning the Heisman Trophy in 1990, Detmer was nothing more than a journeyman backup quarterback in the NFL.
The highlight of his NFL career was leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a playoff berth during the 1996 season.
However, that kind of success didn't come again as Detmer. A 7 interception performance as a member of the Detroit Lions probably didn't help his resume as he continued to bounce around the league for the rest of his pro career.
1 Star - Tony Dorsett
One of the most prolific Heisman Trophy winners of all might be Tony Dorsett. Not only did he win a national championship and Heisman while at the University of Pittsburgh, he also went on to be a Super Bowl champion and All Pro for the Dallas Cowboys. Despite all of his accolades, he might be remembered most for his record breaking 99 yard touchdown run during a Monday Night Football game in 1983. Much like Heisman contemporaries like Marcus Allen and Barry Sanders, Dorsett also ranks as one of the all time leaders in rushing yards in the history of the game.