Receivers–Who Can Win and Who Can’t

There are also some comments wondering why Marc Clayton is not on the list.

As it is clearly stated in Heismandment No. 1, the winner must be a quarterback, a running back or a multi-threat athlete.

No pure receiver has ever won the Heisman. The winners who were receivers also returned punts and kicks.

Let’s look at the last three receivers who have won the award:

1991: Desmond Howard, Michigan — Apart from his diving 4th-down catch against Notre Dame, his signature moment was his punt return against Ohio State where he struck the pose. He had good receiving stats that year, but they were no better than, say, Mario Bailey of Washington.

1987: Tim Brown, Notre Dame — He returned two punts for touchdowns in the same game against Michigan State and cruised to the Heisman. As a receiver, he caught just 39 passes for 846 yards and 3 (!) touchdowns. Aside from the fact that his winning shows the power that Notre Dame brings to a Heisman race (either playing for them, or beating them), it illustrates how receiving stats can be overshadowed by the thrill of the kick or punt return.

1972: Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska — Well, he merely had one of the most famous punt returns in history in the “Game of the Century” against Oklahoma. ‘Nuff said.

So, to all those pure receivers out there–Clayton, Braylon Edwards, Fred Gibson, Geoff McArthur–there’s an award made just for you. It’s not the Heisman.

It’s called the Biletnikoff.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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