Recently, we ranked all 85 Heisman Trophy winners in the history of college football. While that was no small task, we’re not done yet. In fact, we’re just getting started. Now that you’re familiar with each Heisman winner, we will rank the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all-time. Our criteria for this list is pretty simple. We are looking for standouts.
Yes, winning the Heisman Trophy alone proves that you’re a standout player, but that’s not enough for this list. We are looking for the best of the best. The greatest of all-time.
We took a few things into consideration. First was the margin of victory that they won by. Was the voting close? Did they nearly lose? We did not want it to be a debate.
The second was who they beat out. Was there really any competitors that year? Did they steal the Trophy from a college great, like someone who you’re surprised never won the Heisman Trophy?
The last two tiebreakers we had involved the impact a player had on the game and other success they had in their career. Was this player just a one-season-wonder, remaining in the shadows in other years? Perhaps, they were a Heisman finalist numerous times.
We know that may sound like a lot but don’t worry, we took this painful job on for you!
By the time you finish this article, you’ll probably think of a certain player(s) that deserved to be on this list who got left out. Honestly, there are actually 60 other Heisman winners that deserve to be on this list that we painfully had to leave out. For that, we apologize but feel free to read about them in any of our other Heisman Trophy articles.
- 1997 Heisman Winner
- 1997 National Champion
To start off the list we have the first and only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. He was a three-year defensive starter at the University of Michigan. He also started on offense and was a returner for two years as well.
In his first year as a starter, he intercepted five passes on defense. In his second year, he intercepted four passes on defense and picked up 291 total yards on offense as well as two touchdowns. Additionally, Woodson returned punts and kicks that year. In his last season, he intercepted seven passes, had 246 yards and three touchdowns of total offense, and had 283 return yards including one touchdown.
Woodson was so good in college that he won the Walter Camp Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik Award, and the Jim Thrope Award. He was also the Sporting News and Big 10 Player of the Year in 1997. This is on top of being a two-time All-American.
Following his college career, he carried his success into the NFL. He made it to nine Pro Bowls, including four First-Team All-Pro Teams, and won Super Bowl XLV with the Green Bay Packers.
In 2018, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. However, he’ll surely be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame eventually too. While he was a great NFL player, he proved to be one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners in history. For that, he had to be on this list.
- 2012 Heisman winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 5th in 2013
Johnny Manziel made college football look like a walk in the park in his two seasons. In fact, the only reason he probably even played two seasons in college was that he had to. Seriously. Manziel started as a redshirt Freshman, which meant he had to play at least 2 seasons before he was eligible to jump the NFL. Either that, or he had to age up a bit.
With the Texas A&M Aggies, “Johnny Football” lit up the college football world in 2012 and 2013. In 2012, he passed for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns while rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns to become the first freshman to claim the Heisman Trophy.
The next year he followed it up by passing for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns while rushing for 759 yards and nine touchdowns, finishing fifth in the Heisman race.
By the end of his short, two-year college career Manziel’s career totals sat at 7,820 passing yards and 63 touchdowns and 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns rushing. He was then taken in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Sadly, due to multiple reasons Johnny no longer plays pro football.
Had he played longer, he’d certainly be way higher on this list but he still had a fantastic career nonetheless. Regardless, he is still one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners ever!
- 1955 Heisman winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 3rd in 1954
- 1954 National Champion
“Hopalong” Howard Cassady was a great four-year starter for the Ohio State Buckeyes in the mid-1950s.
In his first two seasons, he was a solid back but he really started to stand out in his junior year. That year, 1954, he rushed for 609 yards and six touchdowns while catching 12 balls for 137 more yards. He finished fifth in Heiman voting that year. However, he proved in this short season that he could make a bigger impact with more touches.
The next season he came back even better. He rushed for 958 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to becoming the third Buckeye to win the Heisman.
Cassady won numerous awards in his career, including the Maxwell Award, and he was also a two-time consensus All-American. He was also named the AP Player of the Year, UPI Player of the Year, and Big Ten Player of the Year in 1955 and was a two-time Sporting News Player of the Year Award.
In the NFL, “Hopalong'” played eight seasons and scored 27 career touchdowns. Of course, professional football was still sort of in its infancy. Cassady did have some success here, as he was able to help his team win the NFL Championship in 1957. Sadly, he did not exactly have the greatest pro career but he was still respectable.
Finally, Cassady was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979. In college, very few could be considered better in his era and for that, he was an easy choice for our list of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all-time.
- 1943 Heisman winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 2nd in 1941, 6th in 1942
- 1943 National Champion
Angelo Bertelli had three fantastic seasons as the starting quarterback for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from 1941-1943. In fact, he was a Heisman finalist in each of the three seasons he played as a starter. That’s a pretty big impact in our book.
In 1941, he passed for 1,027 yards and also had 41 attempts rushing, finishing second in Heisman voting. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find stats on his 1942 season but it must have been another good one as he finished sixth in Heisman voting. 1943 was his breakout year, however.
Bertelli passed for 512 yards and 10 touchdowns, winning numerous awards en route to capturing the Heisman Trophy. He was also named the Sporting News Player of the Year chosen as a Consensus All-American. He beat out people like Otto Graham to win the Heisman Trophy that year too!
After college ball, Bertelli had a military career in the United States Marine Core. He served until 1957 and finished with the rank of Captain. Yet we will always remember him for his days as a QB for the Fighting Irish. In 1972, he was deservingly inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Due to all he accomplished, we had to include him on our list of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time. It would be a crime if we didn’t.
- 1940 Heisman Winner
- 2 NCAA Records
- Other Heisman Finishes: 2nd In 1939
Tom Harmon had a wonderful career with the Michigan Wolverines from 1938-1940.
In his first year as a starter, he ran for 398 yards while averaging 5.8 yards-per-carry. In his second year, he rushed for 884 yards and 6.8 yards-per-carry while finishing second in the Heisman race. By 1940, he rushed for 852 yards and 15 touchdowns and won the Heisman Trophy.
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy that year, Harmon also won the Maxwell Award and was named the AP Athlete of the Year as well as the Big 10 MVP. Also during his college career, he was a two-time Consensus All-American selection.
Harmon had 33 career touchdowns by the end of his college career, which was an NCAA record at the time. He also averaged 9.9 points per game, yet another record at the time.
From 1941-1945, he took part in the United States Air Corps. This was the original name for what we’d later call the U.S. Air Force. He fought in World War II and received a Purple Heart for his service. After his time in the Armed Forces, he played in the NFL for a short period of time before becoming a broadcaster.
Harmon was eventually inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954. This was a fitting place to be for one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 1985 Heisman Winner
- 1 SEC Record
Bo Jackson was “the man” at Auburn from 1982-1985. Between his first three seasons, Bo rushed for over 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns, while averaging over six yards-per-carry.
His 1985 season. however, was pure greatness. Jackson rushed for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns to win the Heisman Trophy. This brought his career totals to 4,303 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns with an impressive career average of 6.6 yards-per-carry.
Jackson also played baseball in college and would actually end up playing professional baseball longer than he’d play in the NFL. Not to mention, he also did track while in college as a sprinter, jumper, hurdler, and thrower.
Bo even qualified for the NCAA Nationals during his first two years in college.
After college, as previously mentioned, Jackson played in the NFL from 1987-1990. He’d make it to the Pro Bowl once in 1990 before retiring. Jackson played in the MLB from 1986-1994, however. He is still the only man to ever play in the NFL Pro Bowl and MLB All-Star Games in the same year.
The Auburn stand-out was finally inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998. Bo will always be one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time, in our book. Yet we’d also call him one of the best college football players ever too.
- 2005 Heisman winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 5th in 2004
- 2003 and 2004 National Champion
Reggie Bush started three years at USC, with his last two being especially great (2004 and 2005).
In 2004, he rushed for 908 yards and six touchdowns as well as caught for 509 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He also had over 1,000 yards in returning both kicks and punts, including two touchdowns.
Bush was a Heisman finalist with his high school teammate Alex Smith during the 2004-2005 season. This marked the first time two players from the same high school were both Heisman finalists in the same year. Bush finished fifth in Heisman voting, however. In fact, he lost to his teammate at USC, Matt Leinart.
In 2005, Reggie rushed for an even better 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns to go along with 478 yards and two touchdowns receiving. He also had over 650 return yards with a returning touchdown to cap off an impressive statistical season. He won the Heisman this year in addition to the Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Award.
Bush rushed for a total of 3,169 yards and 25 touchdowns in his college career and had 1,301 receiving yards along 13 touchdowns. He was even a two-time Consensus All-American selection.
Reggie was then drafted as the second overall pick in the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Bush played in the NFL from 2006-2016 and even won Super Bowl XLIV with the New Orleans Saints. He was quite an impressive NFL player but his college football career was far bigger.
Sadly, his career is notably controversial. That does not mean he was not one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time, however.
- 1947 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 3rd In 1946
- 1943, 1946, & 1947 National Champion
Johnny Lujack was a three-year starting quarterback for Notre Dame. In 1942, he was a backup and never got to play but in 1943, he worked up to the starting spot. Thus began the Legend of Lujack at Notre Dame.
That season, he passed for 777 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 191 yards. He was a young quarterback who seemed to have a promising career. Unfortunately, after his 1943 season, he enlisted in the Navy and fought in World War II. The risk of possible damage or even death was high. However, Lujack made it out just fine.
However, Johnny was forced to miss a few years of football due to his time with the Armed Forces. Yet when he returned in 1946, he picked up right where he left off, showing no sign of rust.
He tossed for 778 and six touchdowns while rushing for 108 yards to finish third in Heisman voting. The next year, he passed for 777 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 139 yards to finally win the Heisman Trophy.
Lujack finished his college career with 2,080 yards and 19 touchdowns passing and 438 yards rushing. He also won numerous awards, including being named the AP Athlete of the Year and Sporting News Player of the Year.
Lujack went on to play with the Chicago Bears in the NFL before retiring in 1951. Sadly, his pro career was lackluster. Yet he was a true standout in college. Lujack even led Notre Dame to 3 National Championships!
In 1960, Johnny was finally inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. This was a fitting honor for one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 2015 Heisman winner
- 2015 National Champion
Derrick Henry played for the Alabama Crimson Tide from 2013-2015. The Crimson Tide often employs a “running back by committee” philosophy under Nick Saban and his slew of Offensive Coordinators. This means more running backs get the opportunity to play, but no one is overused. Yet this partially changed with Derrick Henry simply due to his impressive success.
During his first year, he was the third or fourth-string running back and rushed for 382 along with three touchdowns. In his second year, he rushed for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns. His final year was the year in which he became THE running back for Alabama. Henry exploded for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns en route to winning the 2015 Heisman Trophy.
This same year, he won the Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award, and Walter Camp Award. He’d also be named a Consensus All-American as well as the SEC Player of the Year.
Derrick also helped the Crimson Tide win the College Football Playoff to capture yet another National Championship in the 2015-2016 season. His final year with Alabama saw him break several records, and it still holds as one of the greatest years for a Division-I college running back in history.
Henry finished his overall career at Alabama with 3,519 career rushing yards and 42 rushing touchdowns.
In the 2016 NFL Draft, he was taken by the Tennesee Titans in the second round. As of this writing, he has made the Pro Bowl once and led the NFL in rushing once. However, his career is just starting. Yet Henry already has 3,833 yards and 38 touchdowns rushing while averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry.
While we may not know how successful his future NFL career will go, we do know his college career was impressive.
- 1978 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 2nd In 1979
Billy Sims played five seasons, three as a starter, as a running back with the Oklahoma Sooners. Before getting into his college career though, let’s throw it back to his younger days.
Sims did not play his first snap of organized football until the 10th Grade, but it was clear from the start that he was a natural. In three years, he rushed for a Texas State record 7,738 yards. This included having 38 games where he rushed for 100+ yards.
In his first year as the starter for the Oklahoma Sooners in 1977, he rushed for 413 yards and six touchdowns. The next year he improved dramatically and picked up 1,762 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing. This was enough to win the Heisman Trophy. He followed that up by rushing for 1,506 yards and 22 touchdowns in 1979 to finish second in the Heisman race.
Sims finished his college career with 3,820 overall yards rushing and 48 touchdowns.
After college, he was selected as the number one overall draft pick in the 1980 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He played five seasons in the NFL and rushed for 5,106 yards along with 42 touchdowns while averaging 4.2 yards-per-carry.
In 1995, he was deservingly inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. While his NFL career was pretty impressive for the time he played there, it was his college career that made him a football legend. This is why he ranks as one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 2019 Heisman Winner
- 2 NCAA Records
- 2019 National Champion
Joe Burrow didn’t play significant time until his Junior Year in 2018, but he made the most of it. In 2018 he passed for 2,894 yards and 16 touchdowns for the LSU Tigers. He then went to work in the off-season, hoping to improve and even lead LSU to something far better than he did in 2018. All of the hard work paid off as he had one of the best seasons in college football history in 2019.
He threw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns while only throwing six interceptions. Burrow also rushed for 368 yards and another five touchdowns. Joe helped lead the Tigers to a perfect 15-0 season en route to winning the SEC Championship and the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Burrow ended his college career with 8,852 passing yards and 78 passing touchdowns while only throwing 11 interceptions. Additionally, he rushed for 820 yards and 13 touchdowns.
After such a legendary final season at LSU, you can imagine that NFL scouts were drooling. This led to Burrow being taken with the number one overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. It is uncertain how great he will be as a pro, but if his college career is anything to go off of…he could become a legend.
For now, he will go down simply as one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time. Not exactly a small honor, to say the least.
- 1976 Heisman winner
- 1 NCAA Record
- Other Heisman Finishes: 4th In 1975
- 1976 National Champion
Tony Dorsett made the most of every one of his four seasons at the University of Pittsburgh from 1973-1976.
During his first season, he rushed for 1,686 yards and 13 touchdowns. The following year, he rushed for 1,004 and 11 touchdowns. In 1975 (his Junior Year), he rushed for 1,686 yards and 13 touchdowns while catching 11 passes for 191 yards. His Junior Season stats helped him finish fourth in Heisman voting in 1975.
However, Dorsett saved his best season for last. During his Senior Year, he rushed for 2,150 yards and 22 touchdowns while picking up another receiving touchdown. The season was impressive enough for him to take home the Heisman Trophy in 1976. He even led Pitt to win the 1976 National Championship.
Along with the Heisman, he took home the Maxwell Award & Walter Camp Award. While this was his final season, Dorsett was actually named a First-Team All-American three times (1973, 1975, 1976).
Dorsett finished his college career with a total of 6,526 rushing yards along with 59 touchdowns rushing. Meanwhile, he averaged an impressive 5.6 yards-per-carry. He also caught 42 passes for 415 yards and four touchdowns just because he could.
Tony went on to have a successful NFL career as well. He made it to four Pro Bowls, was named to the Second Team All-Pro twice & First-Team All-Pro once. Dorsett ran for a career total of 12,739 rushing yards & 77 rushing touchdowns in the NFL. On top of all of this, Dorsett won Super Bowl XII with the Dallas Cowboys.
Dorsett was eventually inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame & Pro Football Halls of Fame in 1994.
- 1968 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 2nd In 1967
- 1967 National Champion
O.J. Simpson was a standout running back for the USC Trojans in 1967 and 1968.
In 1967, he rushed for 1,543 yards and 13 touchdowns, while averaging 5.3 yards-per-carry, along with 109 receiving yards. He finished second in Heisman voting that year. In 1968, he rushed for 1,880 yards and 23 touchdowns and he padded on 211 more yards receiving. This season allowed him to win the Heisman Trophy, which solidified his legacy in college football history.
Between the two seasons, he had 3,423 rushing yards, 320 receiving yards, and 36 total touchdowns. He also won many awards throughout his college career, including the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award. “The Juice” was also a two-time Consensus All-American.
Simpson would go on to have a very successful career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers. He was a five-time Pro-Bowler, four-time rushing yards leader, and 2-time touchdowns leader. In 1973, he won the Bert Bell Award, Offensive Player of the Year Award, and the NFL MVP Award.
He is a member of the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. Simpson retired from the NFL with 11,236 rushing yards and 61 rushing touchdowns.
Orenthal James Simpson was deservingly inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 & the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. While his NFL career was special, it was in college where he first became a star. His impressive numbers are certainly enough to name him one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 1998 Heisman winner
- 1 NCAA Record
- Other Heisman Finishes: 5th In 1997
Ricky Williams started four years with the University of Texas from 1995-1998. Every single season, he put on a show!
In his first season, he rushed for 990 yards, earned eight touchdowns, and picked up 224 receiving yards. The next season, he rushed for 1,272 yards, earned 12 touchdowns, and caught 25 passes for 291 receiving yards.
His last two seasons were his breakout seasons, however.
During his Junior season, he rushed for 1,893 yards and 25 touchdowns while gaining 150 receiving yards. He finished fifth in the Heisman voting that year. In 1998 he stepped it up, even more, rushing for 2,124 yards and 27 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards-per-carry, along with 24 catches for 262 receiving yards. These numbers were enough for him to win the Heisman Trophy.
Williams won just about every award there was to win in college. This included the Walter Camp Award, Maxwell Award, and being named a Consensus All-American twice. He was also named the Sporting News and AP Player of the Year, and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in 1998.
His success would continue into the NFL as he ended up with 10,009 rushing yards and 61 rushing touchdowns in his career. He also made a Pro Bowl & led the NFL in rushing yards in 2002. His pro career was cut short due to a few injuries and NFL’s Drug Policy, but he still put up impressive numbers.
Yet it was in college where he truly shined. In 2015, he was finally inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Due to his impressive statistics and especially his final season at Texas, he clearly proved he’s one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 1984 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 3rd In 1983
Doug Flutie was a four-year starter at Boston College from 1981-1984.
During his first season as a starter, he passed for 1,652 yards and 10 touchdowns. During his Sophomore season, he passed for 2,749 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 270 yards. In his Junior season, he passed for 2,724 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for 241 yards, finishing third in Heisman voting.
Like many, Flutie saved his best season for last. His Senior season, Flutie passed for 3,454 yards and 27 touchdowns while rushing for 379 yards and three touchdowns. Oh year, he also won the Heisman Trophy that year.
Flutie finished his college career with 677 completions for 10,579 yards and 67 touchdowns. He also had 969 yards and seven touchdowns rushing.
Other than his great statistics, Flute is known for his epic, last-second, successful 48-yard hail mary pass to beat the Bernie Kosar-led Miami Hurricanes in 1984.
He turned pro right after this but barely played in the NFL. Instead, he became a CFL Legend. Flutie won CFL Most Outstanding Player 6 times, won the Grey Cup 3 times, and was named the MVP of the Grey Cup all three times. He was so impressive that he became the only American to ever be inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
Flutie eventually rejoined the NFL in 1998 and had a good year when he was named to the Pro Bowl & won Comeback Player of the Year. But his time was shortlived in the pros.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007. College truly was where he shined the most, which is why he was added to our list of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 1954 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 6th In 1953
It’s not too often you see a fullback crack the top 10 in any kind of list like this, but Alan Ameche was so good we had to rank him this high. “The Iron Horse” was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist for the University of Wisconsin.
In 1953, he was said to have had a big season but we were unable to find official statistics for this year. Yet he finished sixth in the Heisman voting that year. In 1954, he rushed for 641 yards and became the first and only fullback to ever win the Heisman Trophy.
Ameche was also the Big 10 Player of the Year, UPI Player of the Year, and voted a Consensus All-American. In fact, in order to win the Heisman, he beat out future Heisman winner Howard Cassady.
Ameche had pretty good success in the NFL as well. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL Champion. He is even part of the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team.
Alan Ameche is known for revolutionizing the fullback position, mostly due to the various positions he played in the backfield. Ameche proved that you could run and catch passes as a fullback, proving they were not just another running lineman for running backs.
This paved the way for fullbacks like six-time Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl Champion Mike Alstott. Ameche was deservingly named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975. Overall, his revolutionary college career helped to make him one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 1982 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 3rd In 1980, 2nd In 1981
Herschel Walker was a three-time Heisman Trophy finalist as a running back for the Georgia Bulldogs.
During his first season as a full-time starter, he rushed for 1,616 and 15 touchdowns, finishing third in Heisman voting. In 1981, he rushed for 1,891 yards, earned 18 touchdowns, and picked up two receiving touchdowns. Walker finished second in Heisman voting that season.
In 1982, he rushed for 1,752 yards and earned 16 touchdowns, which allowed Walker to finally win the Heisman Trophy.
He rushed for a total of 5,259 rushing yards & 26 touchdowns along with 243 yards and three touchdowns receiving during his college career. Herschell even finished his career with an average of 5.3 yards-per-carry.
Walker went on to play in the USFL and NFL from 1983-1997. He made it to two Pro Bowls in the NFL and ran for a career total of 8,225 rushing yards with 61 touchdowns. This was all done while averaging 4.2 yards-per-carry.
One fun fact about Walker is that he competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics on a two-man Bobsleigh team. He and his partner finished ninth, however. Yet being part of the Olympics puts him in rare company among NFL Players. Yet it was college where we first learned of the impressive Herschel Walker.
In 1999, he was deservingly inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. His overall career was incredible in college. Due to finishing first, second, and third in the Heisman voting…we cannot ignore this greatness. That is why we feel he is one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 1990 Heisman Winner
- 6 NCAA Records
- Other Heisman Finishes: 3rd In 1991
Ty Detmer had ridiculous numbers for Brigham Young University in his four years as their starting quarterback.
During his first season, he passed for 1,252 yards and 13 touchdowns. Yet no one knew what Detmer was going to do the next three years at BYU.
In just the next season, he passed for 4,560 yards and 32 touchdowns while finishing ninth in the Heisman race.
In his Junior season, he tore it up for one of the best seasons in college football history. He passed for 5,188 yards and 41 touchdowns en route to winning the Heisman Trophy. These numbers are comparable to Joe Burrow’s in 2019, especially considering the fact that he played three fewer games that season.
Ty followed that up by passing for 4,031 yards and 35 touchdowns and finished third in Heisman voting during his Senior season.
Detmer’s career totals are off-the-charts. He passed for 15,031 yards and 121 touchdowns in his career. This topped NCAA Division-I totals for a while but was eventually passed. Due to those impressive numbers, NFL scouts felt he could be useful. Yet he was unproven to many, causing him to fall to the 9th Round of the 1992 NFL Draft.
In the NFL, Detmer mostly played as a backup from 1992-2005, but he later became a coach.
Clearly, his college career was where Ty Detmer truly shined. He was rewarded for his impressive college time when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012. Due to his insane numbers in college, we felt Detmer deserved to be named one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 1945 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 3rd In 1944. 4th In 1946
- 1944, 1945, & 1946 National Champion
Doc Blanchard played in the backfield with Glenn Davis during the most successful times of Army Football. The two led Army to 3 National Championships, in fact.
In three years with the Army football squad, Blanchard was a Heisman finalist three times. Doc won many awards during his time with the team.
In his first season, he rushed for 335 yards and five touchdowns, while also picking up 96 yards and three touchdowns receiving. He also averaged 5.5 yards-per-carry and finished third in Heisman voting.
During the 1945 season, he rushed for 722 and 16 touchdowns, while also catching four passes for 166 yards and one touchdown. Additionally, he averaged an insanely impressive 7.1 yards-per-carry. This was the year in which he won the Heisman Trophy.
Doc followed that up by rushing for 613 yards and nine touchdowns in 1946 while picking up 166 yards receiving and another touchdown. He averaged 5.1 yards-per-carry and finished fourth in Heisman voting that year.
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy in 1945, Blanchard also won the Maxwell Award, James E. Sullivan Award, and was named the Sporting News Player of the Year.
Blanchard finished his college career with 1,670 yards and 30 touchdowns rushing, as well as 428 yards and five touchdowns receiving. He was also a three-time Consensus All-American.
Doc never really cared about professional football and went on to join the U.S. Air Force where he served from 1947 to 1971. He retired at the rank of Colonel.
“Mr. Inside” was deservingly inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959. Overall, he will forever go down as one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 1988 Heisman Trophy Winner
- 6 NCAA Records
Barry Sanders had two mediocre seasons for Oklahoma State before bringing down the hammer in his final season as a Cowboy.
During his first season, he rushed for 325 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards-per-carry. In his next season, he rushed for 603 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards-per-carry. Sanders also had four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.
It was his 1988 season that stood way above the rest. That season, he rushed for an NCAA record 3,566 yards and 42 touchdowns while averaging 7.6 yards-per-carry.
Barry also won the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and was named a Consensus All-American in 1988 on top of winning the Heisman Trophy.
While he could have played one more season in college, Sanders saw no point in that and declared for the NFL Draft following his record-breaking Junior season.
He finished his college career with 3,556 yards and 48 touchdowns rushing as well as 164 receiving yards.
Sanders would go on to play in the NFL and the rest was history. He finished his NFL career with 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns rushing. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his 10 NFL seasons, led the league in rushing 4 times, and led in touchdowns once.
Yet before his NFL career, Sanders was a college football standout. He was eventually rewarded for his impressive college career when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003. He was even inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the same year.
Either way, due to his insane numbers in his final year in college, Sanders has to be considered one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 2017 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 4th In 2015, 3rd In 2016
Baker Mayfield’s college career is enough to make a movie out of. Out of high school, Baker was a three-star recruit and decided to walk-on at Texas Tech. He began as the third-string quarterback but was named the starter before the season began due to the first & second-stringers getting hurt.
This meant that Mayfield was set to play the season-opener. In fact, he is the first-ever true freshman walk-on to play the season opener. Mayfield made the most of his opportunity, throwing for 413 yards and four touchdowns. He won the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week Award. This wasn’t a fluke, as he passed for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first season.
He then transferred to Oklahoma but due to NCAA Rules, was forced to sit out the 2014 season. Mayfield would go on to be a three-time Heisman finalist for the Sooners.
In 2015, he passed for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns, finishing fourth in Heisman voting. The next year, he passed for 3,965 yards and 40 touchdowns, finishing third in Heisman voting.
He finally took home the Heisman Trophy following the 2017 season. That year, he passed for 4,627 yards and 43 touchdowns while only throwing 6 interceptions. He also had 311 rushing yards and five additional touchdowns.
Mayfield finished his college career with 1,026 completions for 14,607 yards and 131 touchdowns. His career rushing stats were 1,083 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns.
He is currently the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, entering his third year in the NFL this season. Thus far, he has had a good NFL career. Yet due to his college career, we think he is one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 1948 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 3rd In 1947, 3rd In 1949
While we only have one season of Doak Walker’s stats, we know that he was a three-time Heisman Trophy finalist.
As a running back for SMU, he started three seasons from 1947-1949.
We don’t have stats on his first season, but he finished that year third in Heisman voting. SMU went 9-0-2 and were the Southwest Conference Champions. They finished the season as the third-best team in the nation too.
1948 was his best college season. He had 598 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 4.9 yards-per-carry. He also caught eight passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns. The SMU Mustangs went 9-1-1 and won the Southwest Conference Championship again. They beat Oregon in the Cotton Bowl and finished as the 10th best team in the nation that season.
He was able to win the Heisman Trophy that season, which was heavily deserved as these were impressive numbers for the time. If you recall, he played in the 1940s before we had all the major padding or helmets we see today.
Walker followed that up by finishing third in the Heisman race in 1949.
After his college career, he was the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. He had an impressive NFL career with the Detroit Lions. Doak was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL Champion in six seasons in the NFL. He was even voted First-Team All-Pro four times.
In 1959, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, then in 1986, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Overall, what Doak Walker was able to do in his time playing has to be considered legendary. This is why we rank him as one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time.
- 2007 Heisman Winner
- Other Heisman Finishes: 3rd In 2008, 5th In 2009
- 2006 & 2008 National Champion ***Didn’t start in 2006***
Tim Tebow played terrifically for the Florida Gators from 2006-2009. In his first season, he didn’t start but he did get some snaps here and there and passed for 358 yards and five touchdowns. He was a small piece of Florida’s National Championship run.
In 2007, he became a full-time starter. He passed for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns, while only throwing four interceptions. He also picked up 895 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground. By the season’s end, he had gained enough traction to become the first Sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.
He followed that season up with another great one in 2008. During his Junior season, he passed for 2,746 yards and 30 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions. He also rushed for another 673 yards and 12 touchdowns. In addition, he played a key role in helping the Gators win their second National Championship in three seasons.
In 2009, Tebow had yet another great season. He passed for 2,895 yards and 21 touchdowns while only throwing five interceptions. He also rushed for 910 yards and 14 touchdowns. That season, he finished fifth in the Heisman race.
Tebow wrapped up his college career with 661 completions for 9,285 yards and 88 touchdowns. He also had 2,947 yards and 57 touchdowns rushing while averaging 4.3 yards-per-rush.
Tim was also a two-time SEC Player of the Year, two-time Maxwell Award Winner, and two-time First-Team All-American. Tebow went on to play in the NFL for a short period but now plays baseball for the New York Mets’ minor league system. Along with that, you can see him during the College Football season as an Analyst for ESPN.
- 1946 Heisman Trophy Winner
- 2 NCAA Records
- Other Heisman Finishes: 2nd In 1944, 2nd In 1945
- 1944, 1945, & 1946 National Champion
Glenn Davis AKA “Mr. Outside” used Doc Blanchard’s power up the middle to his advantage. Since teams had to respect Blanchard, more gaps were open for Davis to run free to the outside.
Davis finished the top two in the Heisman race in each of his three years with Army and helped them have a lot of success. With Davis, Army had a cumulative record of 27-0-1 and won three-consecutive National Championships.
In 1944, he rushed for 667 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging 11.5 yards-per-carry. He also had 13 catches for 221 yards and four touchdowns. David would finish second in Heisman voting.
During his second season, he rushed for 930 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 10.9 yards-per-carry. He also had 213 yards and two touchdowns receiving. Once again, he finished second in Heisman voting.
In 1946, he rushed for 712 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards-per-carry. He had 356 yards and six touchdowns receiving to finally capture the Heisman trophy.
Keep in mind just how impressive these stats were in the 1940s with fewer games and less protection.
Davis finished his college career with 2,309 yards and 36 touchdowns rushing with an insane average of 8.7 yards-per-carry. On the receiving end, he caught 38 passes for 790 yards and 12 touchdowns with an average of 20.8 yards-per-catch.
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy, he was also named the AP Athlete of the Year and Sporting News Player of the Year in 1946.
Davis was also named a three-time Consensus All-American in his career.
He was eventually inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1961.
- 1974 &1975 Heisman Winner
- 2 NCAA Records
- Other Heisman Finishes: 5th In 1973
We can’t emphasize this fact enough: Archie Griffin is the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner. Think about that. That’s insane.
Griffin began his career as a running back for Ohio State in 1972. In his first season, he rushed for 867 yards and three touchdowns. The next year, he improved by rushing for 1,557 yards and seven touchdowns, finishing fifth in Heisman voting. This was only the beginning.
Over the next two years, Archie Griffin would smash and dash his way into becoming one of the best players the game had ever seen.
In 1974, he rushed for 1,695 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards-per-carry to capture his first Heisman Trophy. The very next year in 1975, he rushed for 1,450 yards and four touchdowns along with 170 yards receiving. This was enough to become the first and only player in college football history to win two Heisman Trophies in their career.
Griffin finished his college career with 5,589 yards and 26 touchdowns rushing while averaging 6.6 yards-per-carry as well as 30 catches for 350 yards and one touchdown receiving.
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy twice, he was also a two-time winner of the Walter Camp Award, and Big 10 MVP. He was also a two-time Sporting News Player of the Year and UPI Player of the Year.
Not to mention, he was a three-time First-Team All-American.
In 1986, Griffin was honored for his legendary career when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. It is clear Archie is not just one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all time. Rather, he is THE greatest.