A History of the Heisman Trophy

2012 Heisman Trophy Presentation
Best Buy Theater, New York City, NY

Saturday, December 8
7:00 p.m. CT
Airing on ESPN

Finalists announced Monday, December 3

It is touted as the most coveted award in college football, an individual honor steeped in tradition and often the subject of intense debate, a trophy iconic for its pose and its prestige.

The Heisman Memorial Trophy, given to the nation's most outstanding player, was originally awarded in 1935 as the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy. A year later, the DAC's athletic director, John Heisman, passed away, and the award was renamed for him.

Heisman was a pioneer of football, a longtime coach with a few Texas connections. His final coaching stint was with Rice University, and according to the Heisman Trophy website, he was good friends with former Texas A&M head coach Dana X. Bible.

The award that soon bore Heisman's name was first awarded to Jay Berwagner from the University of Chicago. His and all winners' bronze trophies are 13.5 inches tall, 6.5 inches wide, 14 inches long, and weigh 45 pounds. The statue of the ball carrier in stride throwing a stiff arm is arguably the most recognizable trophy in American sports.

- Deciding The Winner -

Originally decided by a committee assembled by the DAC, there are now 928 votes cast to determine the award winner. The vast majority of voters -- 870 -- are media members from across the country. Each previous Heisman winner also gets a vote. In 1999, it was decided that a nationwide fan vote would determine a single ballot cast in the process.

Each voter must list three players on their ballots. The person they deem the best earns three points. Second place for each voter gets two points. Third place gets a point. Whichever player finishes with the most points becomes the holder of the Heisman.

- Texas Heisman History -

A player from a Texas school has won the honor in all but two decades, but never have Texas players won twice in one decade.

The first Texas player to be given the trophy was Davey O'Brien of Texas Christian University in 1938. Doak Walker from Southern Methodist University won the Heisman in 1948.

Texas A&M's lone winner is John David Crow. The running back easily won the 1957 award despite only appearing in seven games due to injury. The senior gained 562 yards, scored six touchdowns on the ground, threw for five more, and on defense, intercepted five passes.

It would be another 20 years until a Texas player won the Heisman. The University of Texas' Earl Campbell earned the award in 1977, with Andre Ware from the University of Houston then capturing it in 1989, and UT's Ricky Williams winning in 1998.

The latest Texas player to win is the last winner, Robert Griffin III of Baylor in 2011.

- Who Picks Up the Trophy? -

Running backs have won the Heisman more than any position. As listed on the Heisman website, 38 players noted as running backs are trophy winners. Another three winners are listed as fullbacks.

Quarterbacks have earned the award 30 times, but have dominated in recent history. From 1972 to 1983, running backs swept the award. From 1984 to 2011, 17 of the 27 winners have been quarterbacks, including all but one since 2000.

All but 20 of the award winners have been seniors, but a senior hasn't won since Ohio State's Troy Smith in 2006.

Tim Tebow of Florida became the first sophomore to hoist the trophy in 2007. Fellow sophomores Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Mark Ingram of Alabama would follow Tebow in the next two years.

Despite their youth, none of the sophomores were able to capture another Heisman. In fact, only Ohio State's Archie Griffin accomplished a pair of wins: in 1974 as a junior, then again in 1975.

No freshman has ever been given the award. Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson came closest in 2004 when we won 997 points in the voting, finishing second to Matt Leinert of the University of Southern California and his 1,325 points.

Archie Griffin's are two of the seven Heismans for the Buckeyes, which matches Notre Dame's awards as the most of any other schools. USC had seven, but Reggie Bush's 2005 award was later vacated due to NCAA violations.

In the earlier years of the Heisman era, players regularly played offense and defense. Larry Kelley at Yale (1936) and Leon Hart at Notre Dame (1949) were winners who spent considerable time on defense. Many consider Charles Woodson of Michigan to be the lone true defensive player to win the Heisman when he was awarded the trophy in 1997.


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