The 10 Worst Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time

August 29, 2011
crouch hiesman The 10 Worst Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time

Eric Crouch with the 2001 Heisman Trophy

Trying to choose the worst Heisman winner is like trying to choose the ugliest Miss America winner — they’re all great, and highlighting their flaws is just being nitpicky. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, you have to acknowledge that some winners are less deserving than others, whether it’s because they won merely on reputation, and/or because there were more deserving candidates. The following Heisman Trophy recipients were all super talented, but their resumes were a bit underwhelming.

1. Johnny Lattner, Notre Dame, 1953

During the early years of the Heisman, the Irish were a dominant force in college football, making them a media darling, a factor that certainly helped them secure an abundance of awards through the years. When Lattner claimed the Heisman, for example, he didn’t lead the team in scoring, passing, rushing or receiving. The duel-threat halfback’s statistics and explosive potential were somewhat hindered by his talented teammates who commanded the ball as well. Interestingly, Lattner’s original trophy perished in a fire at his Chicago steakhouse, and the $300 replacement has suffered an immense amount of wear and tear — perhaps he doesn’t value it as much as another winner would have?

2. Paul Hornung, Notre Dame, 1956

There’s no doubt that Hornung was a heck of an NFL player. People often confuse the worst Heisman winners with Heisman winners who went on to do nothing in the pros — this certainly wasn’t the case, as Hornung is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Most inexplicable about Hornung receiving the award was that Notre Dame was a putrid 2-8 during in ’56, so his impact was minimal at best. Meanwhile, Jim Brown led Syracuse to a 7-2 record, notably scoring a record 43 points versus Colgate and winning Cotton Bowl co-MVP honors versus TCU.

3. John David Crow, Texas A&M, 1957

Crow played in seven of the Aggies 11 games due to a hyper-extended knee he suffered in the season opener versus Maryland. After winning their first eight games, they lost their final three, including one at home against archrival Texas and one against Tennessee at the Gator Bowl. Missing such significant time would be an automatic disqualifier today, but Crow’s dynamism was understandably difficult to ignore by the voters.

4. Gary Beban, UCLA, 1967

Ranked No. 1, UCLA suffered a narrow late-season loss in an unforgettable matchup against cross-town rival USC, which would go on to win that season’s consensus national championship. In the process, Beban had a stellar performance before a national audience, completing 16-24 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns. It was enough to earn him the Heisman despite the fact that OJ Simpson, who had a better season, scored the game-tying 64-yard touchdown in the same game. Although OJ was robbed in ’67, he went on to win it in ’68.

5. Pat Sullivan, Auburn, 1971

The ’71 season was unfolding swimmingly for Sullivan during the first eight games. Auburn had dismantled almost all of its opponents and seemed to be on its way to an undefeated season. Against Bama, however, the tide turned dramatically as Auburn was the one that got dismantled, suffering a 31-7 loss in which Sullivan tossed just 121 yards and two interceptions. Propelled by gaudy stats he accumulated mostly against weak opponents, Sullivan won the Heisman anyway.

6. Archie Griffin, Ohio State, 1975

Naturally, having won the Heisman the previous season, Griffin was the frontrunner going in to ’75. The high-powered Buckeyes coasted through the season, winning just two games by fewer than double-figures, the latter of which came against Michigan, Griffin’s worst game of the season. He won the Heisman anyway, as planned, making him the only two-time winner. He had just four touchdowns that season, 21 fewer than teammate Pete Johnson.

7. George Rogers, South Carolina, 1980

A bruising back, George Rogers worked for every last yard as he led college football in rushing during the ’80 season and guided the Gamecocks to an 8-4 record. Freshman Herschel Walker posted similar numbers for an undefeated national championship team but finished third in the voting, while defensive end Hugh Green, possibly the best player in all of college football, finished second.

8. Andre Ware, Houston, 1989

Ware posted eye-popping numbers that voters simply couldn’t ignore, setting an astounding 26 NCAA records in the process. Benefitting from head coach Jack Pardee’s flashy run-and-shoot offense, Ware was the key component in the 95-21 obliteration of recent death penalty recipient SMU. At the time, the Cougars regularly feasted on weak competition provided by the Southwest Conference. Their signature win in a probation season, in which they finished ranked No. 14, came against No. 18 Texas Tech. Alternatively; Anthony Thomas of the Big 10′s Indiana tallied 1,793 yards and 25 touchdowns.

9. Gino Torretta, Miami, 1992

Neither Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar nor Vinnie Testaverde won the Heisman, yet Toretta was able to secure it during a year in which Marshall Faulk carried the San Diego State offense, despite injuries, with 1,630 yards and 15 touchdowns, clearly asserting himself as the best player in the nation. Miami, a national title contender, was led by its stout defense, and hardly relied on Toretta to carry them to wins. He didn’t even post gaudy numbers. More than anything, he was at the right place at the right time.

10. Eric Crouch, Nebraska, 2001

Rex Grossman deserved to win the Heisman after his standout sophomore season but was robbed due to the tradition of denying deserving underclassmen — he tallied 34 touchdown passes and just fewer than 4,000 yards, torching SEC competition. Memorably, he posted 464 yards and 5 touchdowns against eventual SEC champion LSU in Tiger Stadium. Each of his “Fun ‘n’ Gun” Gators’ wins came by two touchdowns or more, but their narrow losses to Auburn and Tennessee prevented them from matching up against Miami in the Rose Bowl. Crouch, a multi-threat quarterback, made a highlight-reel touchdown catch against Oklahoma that stuck in the minds of voters, thus giving him the award. But the Huskers suffered a terrible late-season blowout loss to Colorado, failed to win the Big XII and easily lost to Miami in the national title game.

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191 Responses to The 10 Worst Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time

  1. Rick on March 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    George Rogers not only led the nation in rushing his Heisman year, but he also set a new NFL rookie rushing record the following year. He should not be on this list.

  2. 44wag on March 2, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    I am a Husker and will hear that fan boy crap. Tommy Frazier wins 2 NC and is not sacked once in the 95 season, destroys Florida, is GOD etc…. but loses to Eddie George who racked up 300+ yards in 4 quarters against patsies like Kent? Miami, OH? and lays an egg in his bowl game.
    SUH wins outland, nagurski, lombardi, bednarik….and loses to a one year wonder.
    The Heisman is a popularity contest that can’t stand universities in sparsley populated states. Correct me if I am wrong but NE is the least populated state to have heisman winners.
    Eric Crouch was “The Balls” by the way.

  3. Anonymous on February 28, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    harrington, Leinart, bush

  4. ridiculousnicholas on February 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Johnny the jet Rogers & Mark Ingram because Ndamakong Suh should have won

  5. jayfro on February 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Charles Woodson and his overrated team that Nebraska would have dismantled is the worst while Peyton Manning should have received it. That 97 Big 10 season wasn’t all that.

  6. wva hank on February 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    most of the people who reply to this article must live in a cave some were in outter space they do not have a clue on what they are talking about. All of the work and time these men put in to beable to play the game of football in collage and in he PRO’s you people are nuts!

  7. John Catalano on February 14, 2012 at 7:45 am

    You forgot OJ the worst of the worst

  8. f sarguis on February 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Huarte of Notre Dame and Leinard of USC were overlooked for Worst Heismans

  9. BTBEV on February 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    To all the fenderheads out there suggesting Leinart, pull your heads out. The guys was a great college QB in the system he was in. Leinart lead his team to an AP National Championship, a BCS Championship (since vacated thanks to Bush), and a chance at another BCS Championship. You simply cannot label him a failed Heisman winner based on those accomplishments, just because his pro-career hasn’t panned out. Get a clue SC haters.

  10. glazer on February 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    RGIII might be next on this list too.

  11. glazer on February 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Leinart should be on the list too. that dude was a bust for sure!

  12. alex on February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Last time i checked, Jason White from OU was one of the worst. One of the most undeserving QB/Player for the heisman of all time

  13. Dave on February 8, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Ty Detmer, Rocket got screwed.

  14. Anonymous on February 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    what about Chris Weinke? That dude was a joke. Josh Heupel was way better than him all year in 99 yet they gave it to Weinke? He only won by under 100 votes too. I think the Heisman trophy is not as “honorable” as it was back in the old days. Reggie Bush really put a damper on things but I’m sure it has been corrupt for some time before that.

  15. JS on February 2, 2012 at 1:40 am

    The Heisman Trophy is just another reason why COLLEGE Football is the biggest joke in sports. The BCS is so pathetic and some of these choices are awful as well- but even the WORST of the WORST Heisman trophy winner is a better choice than the BCS System.

  16. Brady on January 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Has anyone thought of this year winner or future flop RG3 or for that matter all winners for the last 10 years its all about if u got flash and style or not and another thing tebow sucks

  17. James on January 28, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Where is Matt Leinart?

  18. Chris on January 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    It was anthony thompson in 1989. Not thomas.

  19. Neil on January 15, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Am I the only one who thinks the Juice should be on this list? Sure he was a good player but doesn’t killing your wife count for a little more than avg. yards per carry.

  20. john smith on January 5, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    fuck canada

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  23. Anonymous on September 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm


  24. Kyle on September 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Khaordo on August 30, 2011 at 6:06 pm
    Did not notice that most (if not all) of the “should have won” Heisman Candidates are Black? Go figure.

    I dont know if you caught the picture at the top. Tim Couch has got to be one of the lightest skinned black people Ive ever seen. Why does somebody always have to play the race card? Drop the Malcom X syndrom. Theres nothing worse than a hypocritical racist black person. Youre just as bad as racist white people.

  25. bodast on September 1, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Ricki Bell better than Archie griffin…Please !!! he didn’t even win the Heisman votes from the West voters, they picked Chuck Muncie. otherwise Archie won all other voters. he didn’t have 25 touches because Woody had 260 pound Pete Johnson to pound it at the goal line. He made this list because he averaged over 5 yards a carry for his career, and 25 games over 100 yards rushing, including 19 straight. His total rushing yards record stood for years until Ricky Williams broke it. Nuff said

  26. Alain DeWitt on September 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

    First of all, Lattner was a dual-threat halfback, not a ‘duel-threat halfback’. Second of all, it was Anthony Thompson who finished second in the voting to Andre Ware, not Anthony Thomas.

  27. M.C. on August 31, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Dick Schaap was a young reporter just a year or two out of college during the ’56 voting. He’d seen both Hornung and Brown play that year (and had actually played against Brown in lacrosse a year or so earlier while at Cornell). He told me before he passed a few years back that Brown was simply light years ahead of Hornung in ’56, and was the greatest athlete he ever saw, before or since. In fact, Schaap was so upset over their miscarriage of justice that the following year he returned his Heisman ballot blank and told the selection committee that he would never vote again for their silly award…and never did.

  28. HurricaneGMS on August 31, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    The list is fine for the most part. The bottom line for Heisman talk is just whether you think the Heisman is an MVP award or a “best player” award. MVP implies that the team was successful and that it was successful due mostly to that person. Peyton Manning is BY FAR the NFL MVP each year as without him the Colts are 4-12, but with him they are winning 10-15 games every year. Is he the best player, though? Not necessarily. Tom Brady, etc. likely better, but in Brady’s absence for 1 season, the Pats still went 10-6, so Brady is good for what? 1 more game on average.

    To me, Heisman should be best player, not MVP. Best player is just that, the best player. His team, to me, can be 0-11. Ricky Williams’ Texas teams were not great, but he was, just like in 2007 when the Gators were mediocre, but Tebow was the best player (painful to say). By the way, to say Torretta was not a competitor, etc. is just moronic. That guy took a BEATING in 1992 as the O-line was not good, but he stayed in and put up really good numbers. The guy competed as much as anyone.

  29. Kelly on August 31, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I love how people go into a rage over this. Calm down people, it’s just an article. The world isn’t ending.

  30. Anonymous on August 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Anthony Thompson should be # 1 on this list.

  31. Charlie Hustle on August 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    This is, without question, the most ridiculous one of these bullshit type articles of nonsense I’ve seen yet. This list was written by somebody who doesn’t know anything,and is probably not even out of his twenties yet, still lives at home with mom, can’t make up his mind weather or not to watch Pee Wee Herman, ESPN, or The Bachelor, on TV. The wisest thing he or she did was to say his name as the Galloping Ghost, because he would never get another writing gig. Where do you guys get these morons to write this crap? Shame on you for even including it on your pages.
    Good bye. Seriously, good bye.

  32. Anonymous on August 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Heisman trophy is awarded before the bowl games

  33. Pat on August 31, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    @Matt… Paul Hornung was a bust in the NFL? Really?! lmao

  34. Joe P. on August 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    The “Hail Mary” was already posted. Doug made a career out of 1 pass. Someone mentioned “Doug was the man” in another comment. The “Man” of what? He played for a bunch of teams and did nothing. My mistake, I forgot about “Flutie Flakes”. See what happens when you complete a “Hail Mary” pass, you get on a cereal box.

    By the way, many of the comments have posted wrong people and wrong years for the Heisman. Here is the list.

  35. Luis on August 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    What about Doug Flutie, whose Heisman was awarded on the basis of his Hail Mary pass v. Miami?

  36. Jack on August 31, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Paul Hornung did everything for Notre Dame, run, pass, kick….he deserved the award. Nothing against Jim Brown, who probably deserved it just as much, but Hornung was no slouch.

  37. Anonymous on August 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I thought we’d see some truly undeserving winners here, but it is more a list of players who were the second best players in the nation. It’s not like these guys weren’t great competitors. (Except Torreta)

  38. ummm on August 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    you are all queer for this shit, bunch of grown men arguing over whose grown man is best.

  39. Anonymous on August 31, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    this list sucks

  40. Eric on August 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Whoever thinks that Peyton Manning deserved the Heisman over Charles Woodson is crazy. Woodson was by far the best player in the Nation in ’97. Won a National Championship. Manning couldn’t beat Florida.

  41. Matt on August 31, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    This has to be the most retarded “All time” list of ALL TIME. The name should be changed to Top 10 Heisman winners that were busts in the NFL.” Everyone one of these guys were outstanding “COLLEGIATE” athletes, and that is what the Heisman is about.

    Eric Crouch…seriously? At the time, the guy shattered every college record for running quarterbacks and was a one man wrecking machine until they played against the speed of Miami in the title game. Yea they were blown out by Colorado, but that was the defense’s fault giving up 62 pts and over 580 yards of offense. The offense scored 36 and Crouch rushed for over 150 yds with 2 tds, and threw for just under 200 yds.

    I am not a nebraska fan so I don’t want to here that fan boy crap. I’m a gator fan, and most of all, a fan of the game.

    I loved Grossman but he was a product of Spurrier’s system, Pass Pass Pass, and then Pass some more.

    Get your crap together and quit writing moronic stories like this.

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