The Heisman Trophy is awarded every year to the American college football player “whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” The trophy had a humble beginning, initially called the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy and awarded to its first recipient, Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago, in 1935. Back then, the trophy was awarded to the best player east of the Mississippi, and Berwanger received a telegram from Manhattan’s Downtown Athletic Club informing him of the honor. He didn’t have room for the trophy at his fraternity house, though, so his aunt kept it for him at her home – as a doorstop.
The trophy was renamed for the club’s athletic director the following year, when John W. Heisman passed away. Not only did the award extend to colleges west of the Mississippi at that time, but it’s now become one of the biggest honors a college football player can hope for.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was named 2016’s Heisman Trophy winner. Jackson is the youngest player to ever receive the trophy and just finished up one of the most impressive college football seasons in Heisman history, which included over 4,900 yards of total offense. He is also the first player to win the trophy with at least 30 touchdown passes and 21 rushing touchdowns.
While Jackson’s professional future is a tale yet to be written, we can look back on the past 10 Heisman winners. Where are they now?
2015: Derrick Henry, Alabama
Derrick Henry, hailing from the University of Alabama, captured the Heisman in 2015. His Heisman season was his junior year, when the running back set the SEC single-season rushing record with 1,986 rushing yards. Henry was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. There, he’s helping shore up the backfield along with recent trade acquisition DeMarco Murray.
2014: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Marcus Mariota was the first Oregon Duck to win the Heisman Trophy when he earned it in 2014. He was also the first Polynesian athlete to be honored, as well as the first player from the state of Hawaii. His Heisman-winning season was his junior year, when he quarterbacked the Ducks to a 12-1 season while throwing for 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns. He declared himself for the NFL draft in 2015, and was picked up by Tennessee No. 2 overall in that year’s draft. Now in his second NFL season, he’s bypassed 3,000 yards for the first time as a pro, as he hopes to bring the Titans back to the playoffs this postseason.
2013: Jameis Winston, Florida State
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. At the time, he was the youngest player to receive this honor after a very impressive campaign as a Seminole, becoming the first redshirt freshman to win the Heisman and lead his team to a national title in the same season. At the time of the ceremony, his passer rating of 190.04 was a record for Heisman winners.
Winston followed his freshman trophy-winning year with another impressive campaign his sophomore year before declaring for the draft. He was selected No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015, which is where he remains today. Winston maxed out over 4,000 yards his first year with the Bucs, and has exceeded that stat this season..
2012: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel, also known as “Johnny Football,” played college ball at Texas A&M. He was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, which he was awarded after a stellar season as a dual-threat quarterback for the Aggies. In addition to the Heisman, he also received the distinction of being named the SEC Freshman of the Year, as well as the Davey O’Brien winner.
Manziel was drafted 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2014 and only played in the NFL for two seasons before being released after numerous off-field issues led to a strained relationship with his team and the league.
Manziel is not currently signed with a team, but still pops up in the media on occasion. He was spotted tailgating at a Cowboys–Giants SNF game and was present during the most recent winner’s ceremony.
2011: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Robert Griffin III, popularly known as “RG3,” won the Heisman in 2011 following his junior season as a Baylor Bear. He narrowly missed passing for 4,000 yards (the final amount was 3,998) and enjoyed an extremely high passer rating. He graduated early from Baylor with a political science degree and was picked up by the Washington Redskins as the No. 2 overall pick in 2012.
His NFL career hasn’t gone the way he’d hoped, however. While his rookie season went quite well (he was the 2012 Rookie of the Year), his subsequent seasons were plagued by injuries, which limited his success and led to a release at the tail end of the 2015 season. He was picked up by the beleaguered Cleveland Browns in hopes he’d bolster the team, but has yet to make much of an impact, partially because he was injured early in the season and missed substantial playing time.
2010: Cam Newton, Auburn
Cam Newton is another rock slinger who nabbed the Heisman Trophy in 2010, having played his Heisman-winning year at Auburn. Auburn wasn’t his first college home, though – in fact, he was the first double-transfer to win the award in Heisman history.
Newton was selected No. 1 overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2011 NFL draft, and he was named Rookie of the Year following his first season. His play continued to improve over the following years, with the high point coming in 2015, when he was named league MVP and led the Panthers to the 2016 Super Bowl. Unfortunately for Newton and Panther fans, they didn’t win the Lombardi Trophy that year, falling to the Denver Broncos.
2009: Mark Ingram, Alabama
Mark Ingram, 2009’s Heisman recipient, was a member of Alabama’s Crimson Tide when he won the honor. Ingram helped Alabama punish opponents and capture the SEC title his sophomore year, rushing for over 1,500 yards and grabbing an additional 322 through the air. He declared for the NFL draft following his junior year, when he was selected 28th overall by the New Orleans Saints.
Ingram still plays running back for the Saints, recently topping 1,000 yards in the 2016 season.
2008: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
Sam Bradford, a quarterback from the Oklahoma Sooners, received the Heisman in 2008. His Heisman year was an outstanding one, as he led the NCAA in scoring, passing for 4,464 yards. His numbers included 48 touchdowns paired with only six interceptions.
His upsides led to a high draft pick – the then-St. Louis Rams drafted the young upstart No. 1 overall. While he nailed the 2010 Rookie of the Year honors, his play was affected by injury, which has led to a couple different teams signing him for his services. He has suffered from a torn ACL twice as a member of the Rams, once in the middle of the 2013 season, and again during the 2014 preseason. He was traded by the Rams to the Eagles prior to the 2015 season, but his career in Philly ended after the team traded up to draft a quarterback No. 2 overall in early 2016. He demanded a trade, and currently throws for the Minnesota Vikings.
2007: Tim Tebow, Florida
Florida QB Tim Tebow became the first sophomore in NCAA history to nab the Heisman Trophy. His trophy-winning season saw him piling up impressive stats, including nearly as many rushing touchdowns (22) as passing (29). He was up for the Heisman after the following two seasons as well, including a third-place finish and a fifth-place finish.
Tebowmania was a very real thing once he entered the 2010 NFL draft, and only intensified after the Denver Broncos selected him 25th overall. While his playing time during his rookie year was infrequent, the following season he helped lead Denver to a thrilling overtime playoff win against the Steelers. After the Broncos signed Peyton Manning during the 2012 offseason, Tebow was traded to the Jets, where he didn’t see much action on the field.
Tebow, interestingly enough, showed an interest in pursuing a Major League Baseball career once his football career fizzled out. Early in 2016, he was signed by the New York Mets and shuffled off to their instructional rookie league.
2006: Troy Smith, Ohio State
Ohio State‘s gunslinger, Troy Smith, led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season in 2006, passing for 2,507 yards while notching an impressive 67 percent completion rate.
He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. He didn’t see a ton of playing time during his pro career, even during his stint with the 49ers. He was eventually signed by the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League, and was finally released in 2014.
Lamar Jackson’s impact on the NFL is yet to be measured, but the wide-ranging success, or lack thereof, of his predecessors indicates that a Heisman Trophy isn’t a surefire indicator that a player will thrive professionally. While some of these players have played their last snap in the NFL, for others, the majority of their legacies remain unwritten.
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