In the 1990s, Heisman Trophy winners were as diverse, position-wise, as ever! Four quarterbacks, four running backs, one wide receiver, and the very first defensive player won the award.
College football expanded with six new Bowl games, bringing the total to 25. In 1998, the Bowl Championship Series was created. Each champion of the 5 major conferences would be invited to play in a major bowl game. This included the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Orange Bowl.
In the rest of the world, like any other decade, there was a lot that happened.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990. In 1993 he’d win the Nobel Peace Prize, then he was elected as President of South Africa in 1994. Mandela was a social rights activist who was imprisoned for 27 years for peacefully protesting against the South African government over Apartheid.
The Soviet Union fell in 1991, putting an end to the Cold War that had been going on since 1947. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States.
In 1994, the MLB season was canceled due to players’ strike. Two years later, the Olympics were held in Atlanta.
In the NFL, the 49ers & Cowboys proved to be the powerhouses of the decade. San Francisco won two more Super Bowls in the decade to bring their total to five, an NFL record at the time. This was until 1996 when the Cowboys won their third title of the decade to bring their total to five.
From 1991-1994, Jim Kelly led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls, sadly losing all of them.
After losing three Super Bowls at the end of the 1980s, John Elway and the Broncos captured the last two Super Bowls of the 1990s too.
- Year: 1996
- Heisman Voting: 49.38% of votes
Danny Wuerffel tossed dime after dime to throw his way into Heisman history. He was coached by Steve Spurrier, which made him the first Heisman Trophy winner to be coached by another Heisman Trophy winner.
He had a great season the year before as well. In 1995, Danny threw for 3,266 yards and 35 touchdowns, while finishing third in Heisman voting. In 1996, he improved throwing for 3,625 yards and 39 touchdowns en route to becoming the University of Florida’s second Heisman winner.
He won numerous awards during his Heisman season including the Maxwell Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and the Walter Camp Award. Wuerffel also won the Draddy Trophy, the Davey O’Brien Award, named the SEC Player of the Year, and was a First-Team All-American.
Wuerffel was then taken by the New Orleans Saints in the 1997 NFL Draft. He then played in the NFL for a bit as well as a season in the World Football Leauge (WFL) until 2002. After retiring, he began doing ministry work.
To honor his success in college football, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
- Year: 1992
- Heisman Voting: 50.84% of votes
Gino Torretta led the Miami Hurricanes to an excellent season en route to a Heisman Trophy in 1992.
He completed 228 passes for 3,060 yards and 19 touchdowns on his way to winning numerous awards. He won the Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and was named a Consensus All-American.
The Hurricanes finished the regular season with a perfect 11-0 record while claiming the Big East Conference Championship. They would lose to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. However, they beat three teams ranked in the Top 10 during the regular season.
Torretta won two National Championships while at Miami. As the starter for Miami, he led the Hurricanes to a 26-1 record during his time there.
Torretta was then drafted in the 1993 NFL Draft by Minnesota Vikings. However, he did not have wild success in the pros. From 1993-1997, he played for five different NFL teams before retiring.
After retiring he became a financial advisor and later was the CEO of a radio station. He is currently the Vice President at GAMCO Asset management.
To honor his college career, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
- Year: 1995
- Heisman Voting: 52.84% of votes
Eddie George added to the legacy of Ohio State and became their sixth Heisman Trophy winner. He rushed for 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards-per-carry in 1995.
He won the Walter Camp Award, Doak Walker Award, and was the Big Ten MVP, and was a unanimous All-American that same year.
The Buckeyes went 10-2 in 1995 and finished as the sixth-best team in the nation after beating Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.
He finished at Ohio State with 3,768 rushing yards, which was the best in Ohio State history at the time. He also had 44 rushing touchdowns, which was third in Ohio State history at the time.
After that, he was drafted by the first round by the Houston Oilers (who became Titans) in the 1996 NFL Draft. George played in the NFL for nine seasons in total. Eight were spent with the Tennessee Titans while he had one season with the Dallas Cowboys. From 1997-2000, he made it to four-straight Pro Bowls. Currently, he holds 28 franchise records for the Titans.
George’s college and professional number (27) was retired by Ohio State and the Titans. Today, he is part of the Titans Ring of Honor.
He rushed for over 10,000 career yards and 68 touchdowns during his pro-career.
In 2011, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. It is also likely he’ll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame eventually.
- Year: 1990
- Heisman Voting: 53.87% of votes
Ty Detmer was the first Heisman Trophy winner from Brigham Young University (BYU). He is also the last winner of the Heisman award who did not play in a major conference.
To earn the Heisman, he passed for 5,188 yards and 41 touchdowns while leading Brigham to a 10-3 record. He did all of this while helping his team finish as the 22nd best team in the country. Detmer even won the Maxwell Award and the Davey O’Brien Award. On top of all of this, he was also the UPI Player of the Year and a Consensus All-American.
During his college career, Detmer was always amazing. So much so, he ended up being a three-time Heisman finalist during his college career. The year before winning the Heisman, he finished ninth in the Heisman race. The year after, he finished third, finally winning the following year.
After college, he was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 1992 NFL Draft. He played in the NFL for over a decade mostly as a backup. Ty finished his NFL career with 6,351 yards and 34 touchdowns, which isn’t bad for essentially a career back-up. After he retired from playing, he became a head coach for a while until retiring from that in 2015.
Due to his impressive college football run at BYU, Detmer was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
- Year: 1994
- Heisman Voting: 63.15% of votes
Rashaan Salaam was the first Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Colorado when he won the award in 1994. During this period, Colorado was riding high as one of the best teams in the nation!
During his Heisman campaign, he rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns as well as 294 receiving yards while averaging 6.9 yards per rush. In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy, he also won the Walter Camp & Doak Walker Awards. He was even named the Sporting News Player of the Year and voted a Unanimous All-American.
Salaam also helped lead the Colorado Buffaloes to an 11-1 record, allowing them to finish as the third-best team in the nation. This included beating five ranked teams during the regular season and a win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl to cap off the season.
He finished his college career with 3,057 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns while averaging 6.3 yards-per-carry. He decided to forgo his senior season to play professional football in the NFL.
In 1995, he was drafted by the Chicago Bears and managed to have an okay professional career originally. He was even the youngest player in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a season. Salaam finished his NFL career after just 4 seasons but went on to play in the CFL & XFL. Injuries plagued his career sadly.
Though he did come back a bit to prominence in the CFL & XFL, he could never make it back to the NFL. Sadly, he died from suicide in late-2016 and his family declined a neurological exam to check for possible CTE. However, many feel neurological issues led to him ending his own life.
- Year: 1997
- Heisman Voting: 65.69% of votes
Michigan Wolverines’ star Charles Woodson became the first cornerback in history to win the Heisman Trophy in 1997. This also makes him the first defensive player to ever win the award too. Although his position might have been cornerback, he also played a bit at wide receiver and operated as the team’s kick returner.
Woodson was the first Heisman winner since the 1960s to play significant time on both sides of the ball.
During his Heisman run, Charles had 231 receiving yards on offense as well as two touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. On defense, he had seven interceptions. He even ran a kick in for a touchdown too.
He led the Wolverines to an 11-0 record, where they won the Big 10 Championship. The Wolverines then defeated Washington State in the Rose Bowl to capture the NCAA Championship.
A few months later Woodson was drafted number four overall by the Oakland Raiders. In the NFL, Woodson was able to continue his impressive success. However, he mostly played defense. Although, he was also a returner and has 5 returns for TDs in his NFL career.
Woodson is a 9-time Pro Bowler, 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, and led the league in interceptions in 2009 & 2011. He also won Super Bowl XLV with the Green Bay Packers.
He’s even tied for the NFL record with Rod Woodson for the most interceptions returned for touchdowns with 13! Woodson was also a fumble forcer and sack master at cornerback.
He’s part of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team due to his impressive run in the pros. Due to his amazing college career, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018. He’ll surely be in Canton eventually too!
- Year: 1999
- Heisman Voting: 73.83% of votes
Ron Dayne was the second Wisconsin Badger to win the Heisman Trophy after a terrific 1999 season. The “Dayne Train” rushed for 2,034 yards and 20 touchdowns while helping the Badgers achieve major success. This pushed his career rushing yards total to 7,125 which is still an NCAA record today.
During the 1999 season, he also won the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Chic Harley Award, Doak Walker Award, and Jim Brown Award. He also was named the Big 10 MVP, AP Player of the Year, and was a Consensus All-American. You could say that Dayne collected massive hardware for his trophy case.
Ron led the Badgers to a 10-2 record. They won the Big 10 Championship and finished their season by beating Stanford in the Rose Bowl, allowing them to finish as the fourth-best team in the nation.
Dayne was then was selected 11th overall in the 2000 draft by the New York Giants. He played in the NFL until 2007. He did not have an amazing NFL career, finishing with 3,722 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. However, his college success is notable.
His college number (33) is retired by the Wisconsin Badgers. It is likely that he’ll be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame eventually too.
- Year: 1991
- Heisman Voting: 75.50% of votes
Desmond Howard became the third Heisman Trophy winner from the Michigan Wolverines after winning the award in 1991. People mostly know Howard for the iconic Heisman pose. People would try to copy it ever since.
During his 1991 Heisman campaign, he caught 62 passes for 985 yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 15.9 yards-per-catch. That was along with 180 rushing yards and 2 TDs as well as 412 return yards and one touchdown.
The Wolverines went 10-2 en route to capturing a Big 10 Championship. They made it to the Rose Bowl and finished as the sixth-best team in the nation.
Howard would go on to be selected fourth overall in the 1992 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. He played 10 seasons in the NFL and had flashes of greatness. While he never had a 1,000-yard receiving season, yet he did show promise in the slot role.
The biggest thing Desmond was known for during his career, however, was his returns. He racked up a career total of 7,959 kick return yards & 2,895 punt return yards, with 8 touchdowns. This is a grand total of 10,854 return yards!
He was named to a Pro Bowl in 2000 and voted First-team All-Pro in 1996. He was even part of the Super Bowl XXXI winning Green Bay Packers. Howard took home the Super Bowl MVP too. He ended up with 244 total yards, which tied the Super Bowl record.
In 2005 he began his career as a college football analyst and he now works for ESPN and is a co-host on the show ESPN College Gameday.
He was finally honored for his college success when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
- Year: 1993
- Heisman Voting: 83.79% of votes
Quarterback Charlie Ward won every award he was eligible for while leading the Florida State Seminoles to an NCAA Championship in 1993. A year after finishing sixth in Heisman voting, he passed for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns while only throwing only four interceptions.
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy, he won the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Johnny Unitas Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Sulivan Award, and Chic Harley Award. He was also named 1993 Sporting News Player of the Year. The big honors came from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) who named him the Offensive Player of the Year, Player of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
After finishing the regular season with a record of 11-1, the 1993 Seminoles had a chance to play for the national title in the Orange Bowl. They capitalized on their opportunity and won the NCAA Championship.
After such major success in college, it was assumed he would go to the NFL. However, he chose the NBA instead and was drafted by the New York Knicks in the 1994 NBA Draft. People forget that Ward was also a pretty good basketball player at Florida State too. He was not the best offensive threat yet he was terrific on defense.
While he never really had a great NBA career, he was respected. Ward was often put on impressive guards where he’d be a nightmare defender for them to deal with. He played in NBA until 2005, retiring after the 2004-2005 season.
Since his retirement, he has been involved with coaching basketball. However, to honor his college football success, Ward was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
- Year: 1998
- Heisman Voting: 85.23% of votes
In 1997, Ricky Williams rushed for 1,893 yards and 25 touchdowns and finished fifth in Heisman voting. Yet in 1998, he rushed for a then-Big 12 Conference record 2,124 yards and 27 touchdowns to finally capture the Heisman Trophy.
He led the Texas Longhorns to a 9-3 record, helping the team to finish as the 15th-best team in the nation.
Williams finished his college career with 6,279 rushing yards, 927 receiving yards, and 75 total touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards-per-carry.
After college, he was taken by the New Orleans Saints in the 1999 NFL Draft. It came down to Head Coach Mike Ditka offering the Saints’ entire draft to the Washington Redskins, who held the #1 overall pick that year.
This was the first time in NFL history that one player was a team’s entire draft class.
There was controversy as a pro sadly. Williams was never known for PEDs but rather, marijuana use. This all came to a head when he tested positive for weed and was facing suspension in 2004. He was angered by this and retired as a result.
Williams did come back but consistently failed drug tests for cannabis use, causing a year-long suspension in 2006. He’d just play in Canada that year and returned to the NFL in 2007. He’d finally end his career as a Baltimore Raven in 2011.
Williams made it to the Pro Bowl once in his NFL career and led the league in rushing in 2002. He had 10,009 career rushing yards and 66 rushing touchdowns. However, it could have been so much more.
His college number (34) is retired by Texas. Williams was finally honored for his college career when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.