The game of college football became a lot more balanced in the 1960s. Instead of running backs hogging the spotlight, quarterbacks had their fair shot at becoming Heisman Trophy winners too!
In fact, there was an even split 5-5 for running back versus quarterback winners.
Rushing the ball was still the preferred method of offense in the 1960s, but passing gained a lot of attraction after the spread offense gained popularity.
The 1960s also marked the heart of the Vietnam War which lasted from 1955-1975. 2.7 million Americans served in the war and out of that number, around 58 thousand were killed and 300 thousand were wounded.
In 1962, the arms race between the U.S. and the USSR hit its peak when the Cuban Missle Crisis drama began. The conflict was resolved and peace was restored temporarily. However, the Cold War between the two countries was far from over.
Just a year later President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In the same year, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech.”
Civil Rights became more than a Movement,” but rather, something that was becoming a reality. Following Dr. King’s speech in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Then in 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African American Supreme Court justice.
While James Earl Ray would end the life of Dr. King in 1968, King’s message had already spread like wildfire.
In the world of sports, the NFL played the first three Super Bowls. The Green Bay Packers, led by quarterback Bart Starr, won the first two Super Bowls. The New York Jets, led by Joe Namath, won the third. The Super Bowl has now blossomed into the biggest football game of the year, averaging 99.9 million viewers each year.
- Year: 1962
- Heisman Voting: 21.25% of votes
To kick off this list, we have quarterback Terry Baker. Out of all Heisman Trophy winners, he is the only one to have played for the Oregon State Beavers. In the 1962 season, Baker led them to a 9-2 record. This included a victory over Villanova to capture the Liberty Bowl in the final game of the season. Overall, the Beavers finished as the 16th best team.
He passed for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns and also rushed for 538 yards and touchdowns en route to multiple awards. That season, he took home the Maxwell Award, the Pop Warner Trophy, and was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. He was even a Consensus All-American.
Baker also played baseball with the Beavers and is the first person to ever win the Heisman and play in the NCAA Final Four in baseball.
In his final collegiate game, he rushed for a 99-yard touchdown which is an unbeatable NCAA record.
Following that he was the number one overall pick in the 1963 NFL Draft. He’d play only three seasons with the Los Angeles Rams before playing one season with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. Simultaneously he was earning his law degree and later helped fund his own law firm.
Since the conclusion of his career, he has received high honors. He is part of the College Football Hall of Fame, State of Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, and the Oregon State University Hall of Fame. His college number (11) has also been retired by the university.
- Year: 1961
- Heisman Voting: 25.18% of votes
“The Elmira Express” Ernie Davis opened a lot of doors for every African American athlete that came after him. He was the first of the Heisman Trophy winners from Syracuse University. In fact, he was the first African American to win the Award.
The running back gained 980 yards from scrimmage and accumulated 14 total touchdowns for the Orange.
Davis helped Syracuse finish the 1961 season with an 8-3 record. This included two-straight wins over top 10 ranked teams to kick off the season. The Orange ended up finishing the season as the 16th ranked team after winning the Liberty Bowl.
He finished his career with Syracuse as a two-time All-American, National Champion, as well as a Heisman winner. His college number (44) was even retired by Syracuse.
He went on to be drafted as the fourth overall pick in the AFL Draft and two days later was drafted as the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, his professional career and life would be cut short.
Davis was diagnosed with Leukemia shortly after his college career. He’d spend his entire first professional seasons with the Cleveland Browns on the sidelines. And in May of 1963, he’d lose the battle with the currently incurable disease and passed away at the age of 23.
He was later honored by the Browns after they retired his number (45). Davis was eventually elected posthumously to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
- Year: 1965
- Heisman Voting: 26.61% of votes
Mike Garrett was a workhorse for the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans in 1965 en route becoming the first of USC’s eventual six Heisman Trophy winners. In fact, he was one of the first college running back to have over 25 carries per game on average.
The 5-foot 9-inch running back rumbled for 1,440 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught nine balls for 94 yards and an additional touchdown. Garrett ultimately helped lead the Trojans to a 7-2-1 record that saw them finish the season as the 10th best team in the nation.
Garrett’s 1,440 yards on the ground put his career total at 3,221 rushing yards, which was an NCAA record at the time.
That year he was also named an All-American and the UPI Player of the Year and won the Pop Warner Trophy.
Garrett went on to become the 178th overall pick in the AFL Draft by the Kansas City Cheifs. He played a few successful seasons with the Chiefs before being traded to the San Diego Chargers, where he played until 1973.
With the Chiefs, he was a two-time AFL All-Star, two-time AFL Champion, and Super Bowl V Champion. He is now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame.
In his professional career, Garrett rushed for 5,481 yards and 48 total touchdowns. For his accomplishments while in college, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
He’d even return to college when his pro days were done, as he became USC’s Athletic Director from 1993 to 2010. This was a slightly…controversial portion of his life. He served in the same position at two more schools before retiring.
- Year: 1964
- Heisman Voting: 30.98% of votes
John Huarte led Notre Dame to an impressive 9-1 record, helping them finish as the 3rd ranked team, en route to winning the Heisman Trophy. He was part of two mediocre Fighting Irish teams, playing as a backup, before taking over as the starter during his senior season. The Irish improved heavily with Huarte under-center.
That season he passed for 2,062 yards and 16 touchdowns while leading the Fighting Irish to a dominant season. He was the sixth of Notre Dame’s incredible seven Heisman Trophy winners!
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy in 1964, Huarte was also named an All-American. In the 1965 College All-Star Game, he was named the MVP, standing out in an impressive pack. This helped his draft stock for the pros too.
It allowed him to become the 12th overall selection in the AFL Draft by the New York Jets. He bounced around as a backup quarterback for over a decade before retiring in 1975. He eventually played his final season with the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League. Although he was part of the Kansas City Cheifs team that won Super Bowl V.
In 2005 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. While John Huarte is not the most memorable Notre Dame player, he certainly made an impact.
- Year: 1969
- Heisman Voting: 40.92% of votes
Steve Owens powered through opposing defenses, allowing him to be the 1969 Heisman Trophy winner. As part of the Oklahoma Sooners, he ran for 1,523 yards and 23 touchdowns. This allowed him to capture the Walter Camp Award and become a Unanimous All-American in addition to winning the Heisman.
Owens was a three-year starter for the Sooners and he put up great numbers in the two years prior to 1969. In fact, his career rushing touchdowns number of 57 was a school record until 2010. In fact, he still ranks third all-time in career rushing touchdowns at Oklahoma.
His career rushing yardage also stood as an NCAA record for a short time.
After his great year, he was drafted as the 19th overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He played five seasons for the Lions but injuries caused it to be a rough, short career, which ended following the 1974 season. However, he still experienced success with Detroit.
For instance, in 1971 he made the Pro Bowl and was named First-Team All-Pro when he became the first Lions player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. A certain man from a rival college would do this later on, however.
In 1991 Owens was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. In 2006, the University of Oklahoma was even nice enough to erect a terrific bronze statue of Owens on campus at “Heisman Park” along with other Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winners.
- Year: 1966
- Heisman Voting: 48.25% of votes
Long before Tim Tebow was tearing in up in a Gators uniform, quarterback Steve Spurrier became the first of the Heisman Trophy winners to come out of the University of Florida.
Just one season before winning the Heisman, in 1965, Spurrier put up great numbers. He had 148 completions for 1,893 yards and 14 touchdowns while throwing 13 interceptions. His passing percentage was 51.6%, his yards per attempt was 6.6, and his passing efficiency rating was 114.0. He finished ninth in Heisman voting that year.
A year later, he was out for blood. He desperately wanted to win the Heisman Trophy. During the offseason, he made the right adjustments and improved all of his numbers for the following year.
In 1966, he had 179 completions for 2,012 yards and 16 touchdowns while only throwing eight interceptions. His passing percentage was 61.5%, his yards per attempt was 6.9, and his passing efficiency rating was 132.2. His hard work paid off.
After a short, not very successful NFL career, Spurrier thrived as a college football coach.
As a head coach for Duke, Florida, and South Carolina, he won an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Title, six Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles, eight SEC Eastern Division titles, and a Division-1 NCAA Championship with Florida in 1996. Overall, “the old ball coach” became a two-time ACC Coach of the Year and a seven-time SEC Coach of the Year.
He’s even the first Heisman Trophy winner to coach another Heisman Trophy winner (Danny Wuerffel), and the only one to do it at the same university.
He is one of four people to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player (1986) and as a coach (2007).
- Year: 1960
- Heisman Voting: 52.89% of votes
In 1960, Joe Bellino became the first player to win the Heisman Trophy with the United States Naval Academy.
As a running back, he rushed for 834 yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging five yards-per-carry. He also caught 17 passes for 280 yards, averaging 16.5 yards per catch. Not to mention, he added two more passing touchdowns to his totals that season. Basically, 1960 was a busy year for Bellino.
He led Navy to a 9-4 record, which included beating rivals Notre Dame, Air Force, and Army. The team even finished as the fourth-best team in the country.
After college, Bellino was obliged to serve for four years in the Navy as agreed upon by the person and the academy.
After serving, he decided to play in the AFL with the Boston Patriots. The Patriots originally drafted him in 1961 in the 19th round. He only played pro football for three seasons before returning back to the Navy.
Bellino served another 24 years in the Navy where he would finish as a Capitan before becoming a businessman in the Boston area.
Bellino’s college number (27) was retired by the Navy directly after his college career. He still stands out as one of the greatest players to ever come out of the Naval Academy.
- Year: 1963
- Heisman Voting: 55.21% of votes
From one Navy Man to another, Roger Staubach played a terrific year for the Navy Midshipmen in 1963. He passed for 1,702 yards and seven touchdowns en route to being the second of Navy’s Heisman Trophy winners in four years.
That year he also won the Maxwell Award and was named an All-American. In addition, he won the Chic Harley Award, UPI Player of the Year Award, and was named the Sporting News Player of the Year.
He led Navy to a 9-2 record and even a National Championship game. They ended up finishing as the second-best team in the nation that year.
That season they also beat Notre Dame, a team that they wouldn’t beat again until 44 years later in 2007.
He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys after his 1963 season, however, he still had one year of college left and four years of service before he could play with the team. In 1969 he played his first game in a Cowboys uniform as a 27-year-old rookie. The rest, as they say, was history.
Staubach would go on to have an incredible NFL career in which he basically accomplished everything an NFL quarterback can.
He won a Super Bowl, made it to a Pro Bowl, won the NFL Man of the Year Award, and led the league in passing touchdowns and passer rating. Roger is part of the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.
He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame (1981) and Pro Football Hall of Fame (1985). In one of the rarest things for a football player to receive, Staubach was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.
- Year: 1967
- Heisman Voting: 63.50% of votes
Gary Beban was a great player for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins, especially in 1967. He passed 1,359 yards and eight touchdowns en route to UCLA’s first Heisman Trophy winner. Beban also won the Maxwell Award, Chic Harley Award, Pop Warner Trophy, and was named the SN Player of the Year. He even became a Consensus All-American.
He led the Bruins to a 7-2-1 that saw them finish as the 10th-best team in the nation.
Beban’s Heisman came as a Senior after finishing fourth in the Heisman race just a season before. He was a three-year starter and threw for over 1,200 yards in each season he played. In his college career, he combined for 243 completions for 4,087 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Following college, he was drafted 30th overall in the 1968 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. However, soon after he was traded to the Washington Redskins.
His NFL career never quite panned out as he sat behind future Hall-of-Famer Sonny Jurgensen for two seasons before retiring. He’d go on to own his own real estate company. By the 1970s, he became a commentator for UCLA football.
His college number (16) was retired by UCLA and by 1988 he became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
- Year: 1968
- Heisman Voting: 80.64% of votes
O.J. Simpson stole the show in 1968 when he rushed for 1,880 yards and broke the NCAA single-season rushing yards record.
He also rushed for 23 touchdowns and gained 211 receiving yards to push his total yardage above 2,000 for the season.
Just a season before Simpson nearly won the Heisman. He rushed for 1,543 yards and 13 touchdowns, finishing second in Heisman voting. Between 1967 and 1968, USC combined for a 19-2 record, while winning their conference both years as well as a Rose Bowl and National Championship win in 1967.
Simpson went on to become the number one overall pick in the 1969 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. Between the Bills and the San Fransico 49ers, he played 11 years in the NFL During that time, he was selected to the Pro Bowl five times, lead the league in rushing touchdowns twice, and lead the league in rushing yards four times. Simpson even became the NFL MVP in 1973.
He even ran for over 2,000 yards during his NFL career and is still the only man to ever do it in a 14-game regular season.
He eventually retired from the game of football in 1979.
As one of USC’s many Heisman Trophy winners, along with having a great college career (especially his legendary 1967 season), O.J. was deserving of the College Football Hall of Fame when elected to it in 1983. He’d go on to become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985 as well.
Sadly, football is often the last thing people think about when O.J. Simpson’s name is brought up. However, he did boost some sales of White Broncos.