Heisman Trophy
SportCollege football
Awarded forOutstanding performance which best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.
Presented by
First winnerJay Berwanger RB, 1935
Most recentDeVonta Smith WR, 2020

The Heisman Memorial Trophy (usually known colloquially as the Heisman Trophy or The Heisman) is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. It is presented by the Heisman Trophy Trust in early December before the postseason bowl games.

The award was created by the Downtown Athletic Club in 1935 to recognize "the most valuable college football player east of the Mississippi", and was first awarded to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger.[1][2] After the death in October 1936 of the Club's athletic director, John Heisman, the award was named in his honor and broadened to include players west of the Mississippi.[3][4] Heisman had been active in college athletics as a football player; a head football, basketball, and baseball coach; and an athletic director.

It is the oldest of several overall awards in college football, including the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and the AP Player of the Year. The Heisman and the AP Player of the Year honor the outstanding player, while the Maxwell and the Walter Camp award recognizes the best player, and the Archie Griffin Award recognizes the most valuable player. The most recent winner of the Heisman Trophy is University of Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who is now a professional player for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

Trophy design

The trophy itself, designed by sculptor Frank Eliscu, is modeled after Ed Smith, a leading player in 1934 for the now-defunct New York University football team.[5] The trophy is made out of cast bronze, is 13.5 inches (34.3 cm) tall, 14 inches long, 16 inches in width and 45 pounds (20.4 kg).[6]

Eliscu had asked Smith, his former George Washington High School classmate, to pose for a commissioned sculpture of a football player. Smith did not realize until 1982 that the sculpture had become the Heisman Trophy. The Downtown Athletic Club presented Smith with a Heisman Trophy of his own in 1985.

From its inception in 1935, the statue was cast by Dieges & Clust in New York (and later Providence, Rhode Island) until 1980, when Dieges and Clust was sold to Herff Jones.[citation needed] For a time until at least 2008, the statues were cast by Roman Bronze Works in New York.[7]

Since 2005 the trophy has been made by MTM Recognition in Del City, Oklahoma.[8]


Originally only players east of the Mississippi were eligible, but since 1936 all football players playing in all divisions of college football nationwide are eligible for the award, though winners usually represent Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools.[9]

There are three categories of eligible voters for the award winner:

Except for the one vote based on the fan voting, the balloting is based on positional voting, whereby each voter identifies three selections, ranking them in order. Each first-place selection is awarded three points, each second-place selection is awarded two points, and each third-place selection is awarded one point. Voters must make three selections and cannot duplicate a selection, else the ballot is invalid and none of the selections count.[10]

The accounting firm Deloitte is responsible for the tabulation of votes, which has moved almost exclusively to online voting since 2007.[10]

Notable achievements

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Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame have the most Heisman trophies won, each with seven; Ohio State has had six different players win the award.

The player who received the most votes (by percentage) was Joe Burrow of LSU in 2019, with 93.8% of possible points.[14] Burrow also won by the largest margin of votes, with 1,846 votes over second place.[14] USC running back O. J. Simpson received the most total first place votes, in 1968, with 855, at a time when there were more total voters.[15] The closest margin of votes was in 2009 between winner Mark Ingram of Alabama and Toby Gerhart of Stanford.[16]

Eleven of the Heisman Trophy winners are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,[17][18] and four winners have also been named Most Valuable Player in a Super Bowl. Some winners have gone on to play in other professional sports, including Bo Jackson in baseball and Charlie Ward in basketball. Pete Dawkins and Dick Kazmaier are the only winners not to pursue a professional sports career: Dawkins had a career with the United States Army where he achieved the rank of Brigadier General; Kazmaier attended Harvard Business School, founded a consulting company specializing in sports marketing, and chaired the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition during 1988–89.

University success

In addition to personal statistics, team achievements play a heavy role in the voting – a typical Heisman winner represents a team that had an outstanding season and was most likely in contention for the national championship or a major conference championship at some point in that season.

The closest that a player outside the modern Division I FBS came to winning the Heisman is third place; in both cases, the players involved played for schools in what was at the time Division I-AA, now Division I FCS. The first was Gordie Lockbaum from Holy Cross in 1987, followed by Steve McNair, from Alcorn State in 1993. Armanti Edwards, from Appalachian State University, was also briefly mentioned as a candidate for the award following Appalachian's upset of No. 5-ranked Michigan in 2007.

Besides Griffin winning consecutive Heismans at Ohio State, four other programs had two different players win the Heisman Trophy in consecutive years: Yale (1936–37), Army (1945–46), Southern California (USC) (2004–05, though Reggie Bush voluntarily forfeited his 2005 award in September 2010 and sent the trophy back to the Heisman Trust[19]), and Oklahoma (2017-2018). With an earlier win in 2002, the USC program actually had three different winners within four years.

Only three high schools have produced multiple Heisman trophy winners. The first was Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas (Davey O'Brien in 1938 and Tim Brown in 1987) (Woodrow remains the only public high school to be so recognized). Thereafter, two private high schools also achieved this distinction: Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia (Vinny Testaverde as a Postgraduate in 1982, and Eddie George in 1996) and Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California (John Huarte in 1964 and Matt Leinart in 2004).

Of the colleges where trophy namesake John Heisman coached, only Auburn University has produced Heisman winners, with Pat Sullivan in 1971, Bo Jackson in 1985, and Cam Newton in 2010.

Class and age

For most of its history, most winners of the Heisman have been seniors.[20]

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman in 2012. The following year, at 19 years, 342 days old, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston became the youngest Heisman Trophy winner at that time as a freshman. Both, however, were in their second year of college, having been redshirted during their first year of attendance, meaning that no true freshman has yet won the award. No sophomore won the Heisman in its first 72 years, at which point there were three consecutive sophomore winners — Tim Tebow in 2007, followed by Sam Bradford and Mark Ingram Jr. — with Lamar Jackson, who also surpassed Winston's record as the youngest Heisman winner, becoming the fourth in 2016. Of the four sophomores to have won the award, only Bradford had been redshirted; the others all won during their second year of college attendance. Only a few juniors have won the award, starting with the eleventh winner in 1945, Doc Blanchard.

Five players have finished in the top three of the Heisman voting as freshmen or sophomores before later winning the award: Angelo Bertelli, Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard, Doak Walker, and Herschel Walker. Eight players have finished in the top three as freshmen or sophomores but never won a Heisman: Clint Castleberry, Marshall Faulk, Michael Vick, Rex Grossman, Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Peterson, Deshaun Watson, and Christian McCaffrey. Four players have specifically finished second in consecutive years: Glenn Davis (second in 1944 and 1945, winner in 1946), Charlie Justice (second 1948 and 1949), Darren McFadden (second 2006 and 2007), and Andrew Luck (second 2010 and 2011).

The oldest and youngest Heisman winners ever both played for Atlantic Coast Conference schools. The oldest, Chris Weinke, was 28 years old when he won in 2000; he spent six years in minor league baseball before enrolling at Florida State. The youngest winner is 2016 recipient Lamar Jackson of Louisville at the age of 19 years, 338 days, four days younger than Jameis Winston was when he won in 2013.


The Heisman has usually been awarded either to a running back or a quarterback; very few players have won the trophy playing a position other than those two aforementioned. Three wide receivers have been named winner, Tim Brown, Desmond Howard, and DeVonta Smith. Two tight ends have also won the trophy, Larry Kelley and Leon Hart. Charles Woodson is the only primarily defensive player to win the award, doing so as a defensive back, while also serving as kick returner and occasional wide receiver for Michigan in 1997.

The highest finish ever for any individual who played exclusively on defense is second, by defensive end Hugh Green of Pittsburgh in 1980 and linebacker Manti Te'o of Notre Dame in 2012. Although the Heisman is named in honor of an interior lineman, no interior lineman on either side of the ball has ever won the award. Legendary linebacker Dick Butkus placed sixth in 1963 and third in 1964 and could qualify as an interior lineman, as he played center on offense during his era when two-way players were still common. Offensive guard Tom Brown of Minnesota and the offensive tackle John Hicks of Ohio State placed second in 1960 and 1973, respectively. Rich Glover, a defensive lineman from Nebraska, finished 3rd in the 1972 vote—which was won by his Cornhusker teammate Johnny Rodgers. Washington's DT Steve Emtman finished 4th in voting in 1991. Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska finished fourth in 2009 as a defensive tackle. Also, Kurt Burris, a center for the Oklahoma team, was a runner-up for the award in 1954 and Orlando Pace finished fourth in 1996 as an offensive tackle for Ohio State.[citation needed]


Due to the neighborhood housing the Downtown Athletic Club's facilities becoming blockaded after the attacks on 9/11, the 2001 award ceremony was moved to the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square. After the DAC filed for bankruptcy in 2002, the Yale Club hosted the presentation at its facility in 2002 and 2003. The ceremony moved to the Hilton New York for 2004, and was presented annually at the PlayStation Theater from 2005 until its closure in 2019 (except in 2017, when the presentation was moved because of a scheduling conflict).[21]

In 2017, the 83rd edition of the Heisman Trophy presentation returned to the Marquis Theatre.[22]

The 2008 Heisman press conference was held at the Sports Museum of America at 26 Broadway near the old Downtown Club building. There was an entire gallery with the museum-attraction dedicated to the Trophy, including the making of the Trophy, the history of the DAC, and information on John Heisman and all the Trophy's winners. There was also a dedicated area celebrating the most recent winner, and the opportunity for visitors to cast their vote for next winner (with the top vote-winner receiving 1 official vote on their behalf).[23] The Sports Museum of America closed permanently in February 2009.[24]

After the PlayStation Theatre closed in December 2019, the Heisman Trust began searching for a new location to conduct the trophy presentation. The 2020 ceremony would ultimately be held at the studios of ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the ceremony being held on January 5, 2021.[25]


The award was first presented in 1935 by the Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) in New York City, a privately owned recreation facility located on the lower west side near the later World Trade Center site. It was first known simply as the DAC Trophy. The first winner, Jay Berwanger, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles but declined to sign for them. He never played professional football for any team. In 1936, John Heisman died and the trophy was renamed in his honor.[26] Larry Kelley, the second winner of the award, was the first man to win it as the "Heisman Trophy".[27]

The first African American player to win the Heisman was Syracuse's Ernie Davis, who never played a snap in the NFL. He was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after winning the award and died in 1963. In 1966, former Florida Gators quarterback Steve Spurrier gave his Heisman trophy to the university president, Dr. J. Wayne Reitz, so that the award could be shared by Florida students and faculty.[5] The gesture caused Florida's student government to raise funds to purchase a replacement trophy for Spurrier.[5] Since then, the Downtown Athletic Club has issued two trophies to winners, one to the individual and a replica to his college.[5]

Several Heisman trophies have been sold over the years; although there is a ban on the sale of all trophies awarded since 1999, trophies awarded in previous years can be sold.[28] O. J. Simpson's 1968 trophy was sold in February 1999 for $230,000 as part of the settlement of the civil trial in the O. J. Simpson murder case.[5] Yale end Larry Kelley sold his 1936 Heisman in December 1999 for $328,110 to settle his estate and to provide a bequest for his family.[5] Charles White's 1979 trophy first sold for $184,000 and then for nearly $300,000 in December 2006 to help pay back federal income taxes.[5] The current record price for a Heisman belongs to the trophy won by Minnesota halfback Bruce Smith in 1941 at $395,240.[5] Paul Hornung sold his Heisman for $250,000 to endow student scholarships for University of Notre Dame students from his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.[5] Eliscu's original plaster cast sold at Sotheby's for $228,000 in December 2005.[5]

Television coverage

The presentation of the Heisman trophy was not broadcast on television until 1977.[29] Before 1977, the presentation of the award was not televised as a stand-alone special, but rather as a quick in-game feature. The ceremony usually aired on ABC as a feature at halftime of the last major national telecast (generally a rivalry game) of the college football season. ABC essentially showed highlights since the award was handed out as part of an annual weeknight dinner at the DAC. At the time, the event had usually been scheduled for the week following the Army–Navy Game.[citation needed] The most watched Heisman ceremony ever was in 2009 when Mark Ingram won over Toby Gerhart and Colt McCoy.[30]

On December 8, 1977, CBS (who paid $200,000 for the rights) aired a one-hour (at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time) special to celebrate the presentation of the Heisman trophy to Earl Campbell of the University of Texas. Elliott Gould and O. J. Simpson were the co-hosts, with Connie Stevens and Leslie Uggams providing musical entertainment and Robert Klein providing some comic relief.[citation needed]

Since then, a number of companies have provided television coverage of the event:[citation needed]

Controversy and politics

Regional bias controversy

A number of critics have expressed concern about the unwritten rules regarding player position and age, as noted above.[citation needed]

Over the years, there has been substantial criticism of a regional bias, suggesting that the Heisman balloting process has ignored West Coast players.[31] At present, the Pac-12 Conference (formerly Pac-10 and Pac-8) represents 12 of the 65 teams (roughly 18.5%) in the Power Five conferences. The Heisman can be, and has been, presented to players from other conferences, but a random sample over a long period of time might suggest that Pac-10/12 players might win somewhere close to 18% of the Heisman awards.[32] In the 20 seasons between 1981 (Marcus Allen) and 2002 (Carson Palmer), not a single Pacific-10 Conference or other West Coast player won the Heisman Trophy. Three Southern California (USC) players have won the trophy in the early years of the 21st century and two won it subsequent to Palmer. Although Terry Baker, quarterback from Oregon State, won the trophy in 1962, and Gary Beban from UCLA won in 1967, no non-USC player from the West Coast had won between Stanford's Jim Plunkett in 1970 and Oregon's Marcus Mariota in 2014. Other than Mariota's win, the closest since Plunkett's win have been Chuck Muncie, John Elway, Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck, Christian McCaffrey, and Bryce Love. Muncie was a running back for the California Golden Bears who finished second in the Heisman balloting in 1975. The other five were Stanford players who finished second in the Heisman balloting in 1982, and each year from 2009 to 2011, 2015, and 2017.

The West Coast bias discussion usually centers on the idea that East Coast voters see few West Coast games, because of television coverage contracts, time zone differences, or cultural interest. At Heisman-projection website StiffArmTrophy.com, commentator Kari Chisholm claims that the Heisman balloting process itself is inherently biased:

For Heisman voting purposes, the nation is divided into six regions—each of which get 145 votes. Put another way, each region gets exactly 16.67 percent of the votes. However, each region does not constitute an even one-sixth of the population. Three regions (Far West, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic) have larger populations than 16.67% of the national population; and three have less (Northeast, South, and Southwest). In fact, the Far West has the greatest population at 21.2% of the country and the Northeast has the least at 11.9%.[33]

Nullification of 2005 award

See also: Reggie Bush § NCAA investigation and lawsuits

In 2010 University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden announced the university would return its replica of the 2005 Heisman Trophy due to NCAA sanctions requiring the university to dissociate itself from Reggie Bush. The NCAA found that Bush had received gifts from an agent while at USC. On September 14, 2010, Bush voluntarily forfeited his title as a Heisman winner. The next day, the Heisman Trust announced the 2005 award would remain vacated and removed all mention of the 2005 award from its official website.[34] Bush eventually returned the trophy itself to the Heisman Trust in 2012.[35]

Critical responses from the national media were strident and varied. CBSSports.com producer J. Darin Darst opined that Bush "should never have been pressured to return the award." Kalani Simpson of Fox Sports wrote, "Nice try Heisman Trust...It's a slick move to try to wipe the slate clean." Former Football Writers Association of America president Dennis Dodd, on the other hand, decided to fictitiously award Bush's vacated 2005 award to Vince Young, the original runner-up that year. He wrote, "Since the Heisman folks won't re-vote, we did. Vince Young is the new winner of the 2005 Heisman." A Los Angeles Times piece argued that Bush's Heisman was "tainted" but lamented that the decision came five years after Bush was awarded the trophy and, therefore, four years after the expiration of Bush's term as current holder of the Heisman title.[36][37][38][39]

Elections involving notable controversy

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Main article: List of Heisman Trophy winners

See also


  1. ^ "Gridiron Scene for Trophy" (PDF). New York Times. November 14, 1935. Retrieved 2013-12-15.
  2. ^ "New York Pays High Honors to Berwanger". Chicago Daily Tribune. December 11, 1935. p. 27.
  3. ^ "Heisman Trophy Awarded Kelley" (PDF). New York Times. December 2, 1936. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  4. ^ "Heisman Trophy to Be Presented to Kelly Today". Chicago Daily Tribune. December 16, 1936. p. 30.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j John D. Lukacs (2007-12-07). "From the legendary to the little-known, Heisman history is never dull". ESPN. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
  6. ^ https://www.heisman.com/about-the-heisman/heisman-trophy-design/
  7. ^ Johnston, Joey (December 14, 2008). "Winning One Heisman Is Tough Enough, And Tebow Has His". Tampa Tribune.
  8. ^ Tracy, Marc (December 7, 2017). "'No Two Are Exactly the Same': How the Heisman Trophy Is Made". nytimes.com. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  9. ^ "Berwanger Gains Trophy" (PDF). New York Times. December 5, 1935. Retrieved 2013-12-15.
  10. ^ a b c d "Heisman Trophy Balloting". heisman.com. Archived from the original on August 16, 2012.
  11. ^ "1974 & 1975 – 40th & 41st Awards". Heisman.com. Archived from the original on 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2012-01-04.
  12. ^ "Florida Gators Football Head Coach Steve Spurrier". gatorzone.com. Archived from the original on 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2013-11-25.
  13. ^ "'Johnny Heisman': Manziel first freshman to win trophy". KHOU. 2012-12-08. Archived from the original on 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
  14. ^ a b c "LSU QB Joe Burrow wins 2019 Heisman Trophy in record-breaking landslide". sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2019-12-15.
  15. ^ Myerberg, Paul (December 14, 2019). "LSU quarterback Joe Burrow wins 2019 Heisman Trophy by record-setting margin". USA Today.
  16. ^ Chisholm, Kari. "A plea to sportswriters for statistical accuracy". Stiff Arm Trophy. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  17. ^ "Heisman Trophy winners in the HOF". profootballhof.com. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
  18. ^ "Heroes of the Game". Retrieved 2016-01-17.
  19. ^ Smith, Erick (September 14, 2010). "Reggie Bush announces he is giving back his Heisman Trophy". USA Today. Retrieved September 14, 2010.
  20. ^ "Heisman Winners". The Heisman Trophy. Archived from the original on 2014-08-01. Retrieved 2009-12-13.
  21. ^ Aswad, Jem (2019-08-20). "New York's PlayStation Theater to Close (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  22. ^ Weiss, Brad (August 1, 2017). "When is the (2017) Heisman Trophy Presentation?".
  23. ^ Sandomir, Richard (2008-05-01). "The Heisman Trophy Moves Into Its New Home". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-13.
  24. ^ Sandomir, Richard (2009-02-20). "Financial Problems Close Sports Museum". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-13.
  25. ^ "Heisman Trophy to be awarded virtually Jan. 5". ESPN.com. 2020-11-14. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  26. ^ "Heisman Trophy - John W. Heisman". Heisman.com. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  27. ^ "The Heisman Trophy". Heisman.com. Archived from the original on January 3, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  28. ^ Witz, Billy (2019-12-14). "Congrats on the Heisman Trophy. Now Sign Here and Promise to Not Sell It". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  29. ^ "Heisman Trophy Presentation broadcast history?". Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
  30. ^ Sen, Paul (December 13, 2012). "Heisman Trophy Presentation Second-Most Watched on Record — Sports Media Watch". SportsMediaWatch.com. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  31. ^ "Seattle Times, Bob Condotta". Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  32. ^ "San Jose Mercury News, John Wilner". 2009-12-11. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  33. ^ "West Coast Bias". StiffArmTrophy. Retrieved 2007-11-20.
  34. ^ "Reggie Bush's Heisman to stay vacated". ESPN.com. September 16, 2010. Archived from the original on August 16, 2012.
  35. ^ Moura, Pedro (August 16, 2012). "Former USC RB Bush returned his '05 Heisman". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  36. ^ "Vince Young: Heisman Trophy Should Not Be Mine". Sports. Huffington Post. 16 September 2010. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  37. ^ "Vince Young wins the 2005 Heisman!". CBS Sports. September 22, 2010. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015.
  38. ^ "Bush's return of Heisman is wrong move". FOX Sports. 14 September 2010.
  39. ^ "Reggie Bush's tainted Heisman". Los Angeles Times. 16 September 2010. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  40. ^ "Jameis Winston's Heisman win dogged by fallout from sexual assault case". The Guardian. December 16, 2013. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  41. ^ "Auburn's Cam Newton timeline: From recruitment to NCAA ruling". AL.com. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  42. ^ "10 Biggest Heisman Snubs Ever". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2015-12-12.

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