Whenever a returning Heisman winner is snubbed on my Heisman Watch, I always get grief from fans of that player’s team over the terrible injustice I have heaped upon said player.
It is no different this year, as Texas A&M fans are seeing red over my refusal to include Johnny Manziel in my current group of possible 2013 Heisman winners.
It’s because of my adherence to Heismandment No. 9 that I take this position. Of course, at season’s end, I always turn out to be right on this no-repeat matter and then the issue lies dormant until the next Heisman winner gets snubbed.
But I thought it would be helpful to look at the history of return Heisman winners and see why I have come to this conclusion.
Here are the Heisman winners who returned the following season (and in Tim Tebow’s case, the following two seasons) to play college football and how they finished in the Heisman vote:
Player/Team/Year Following Yr Finish/Pts behind winner
|Doc Blanchard, Army, 1946||4th||535|
|Doak Walker, SMU, 1949||3rd||765|
|Vic Janocwicz, OSU, 1951||DNP||DNP|
|Roger Staubach, Navy, 1964||DNP||DNP|
|Archie Griffin, OSU, 1975||1st||–|
|Billy Sims, Okla., 1979||2nd||922|
|Ty Detmer, BYU, 1991||3rd||1,632|
|Jason White, Okla., 2004||3rd||368|
|Matt Leinart, USC, 2005||3rd||1,744|
|Tim Tebow, Florida, 2008||3rd||151|
|Tim Tebow, 2009||5th||914|
|Sam Bradford, Okla., 2009||DNP||DNP|
|Mark Ingram, Alabama, 2010||DNP||DNP|
DNP=Did not place in final top 10
As you can see, only the legendary Tebow–with all his accolades, hype, larger-than-life heroics and statistical accomplishments–came within 200 points of becoming the second player to win a second Heisman.
The eight players who managed to garner any votes following their Heisman years lost out by an average of 878 points. For perspective’s sake, that’s more than the winning total points captured by Eric Crouch in 2001.
Only Archie Griffin managed to win that second Heisman. And he did so to cap a four-year legendary career in which he became the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher while leading his Ohio State team to four-straight Rose Bowls and an 11-0 finish as a 1975 senior–a year, incidentally, in which he beat a very weak field.
But he was the exception, not the rule, when it comes to the Heisman.
So, I think it’s clear why Manziel’s chances of repeating are remote. Not only is there a clear voter bias against repeat winners, there is also the difficulty of duplicating a Heisman-type season and then once again being judged to be more worthy than your competitors. It’s just so hard for lightning and good fortune to strike twice. Plus, voters are well aware that to give him a second Heisman would put him on hallowed ground and, as good as he is, there doesn’t appear to be a rush by the voters to do that.