The Heisman Trophy. It’s supposed to be presented to the most outstanding player college football has to offer in a season. But is it? Very rarely. The last time it was came at the conclusion of the 1997 season.
Recently, the Heisman has become the most watered down personal achievement award handed out, and the most overrated one to receive. Offensive players who pad their statistics either throwing or running the ball can almost certainly depend on a call to New York City at season’s end. Yet, do these players have the biggest impact on the game as a whole, more than even players on defense? It’s just not so.
Consider the case of Charles Woodson, a do it all talent who won the award in 1997. Woodson not only played fierce defense for the Michigan Wolverines, he starred at wide receiver while remaining a burner on special teams. Every single game Michigan won during their magical run, Woodson put his stamp on in multiple ways. He didn’t just excel offensively or defensively. That should be the mark of a Heisman Trophy winner instead of the player who simply throws the most touchdowns or runs for the most yardage.
Since Woodson won in 1997, how has the talent of those so-called collegiate wunderkinds translated to the NFL? Not well at all. The most successful recent winners are Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III. In fact, the list of recent players who have flamed out after winning the trophy is longer. Eric Crouch is now a salesman and broadcaster while Jason White manages apparel stores. Troy Smith, Ricky Williams, Ron Dayne, Chris Weinke and Matt Leinart all had cups of coffee in the league, but didn’t do enough to survive for more than a handful of years. The whole impact of Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram Jr. and Sam Bradford is yet to be felt. Woodson, meanwhile, has quietly continued to dominate the league on defense for years.
In fact, 1997 is the last great Heisman year in history. Woodson narrowly won the award over Peyton Manning and also had to hold off receiver Randy Moss in the process. Those players have become two of the preeminent contributors at their positions in NFL history. Since then, what other Heisman presentation can boast that type of depth? Woodson and Manning will probably be on their way to Canton, Ohio relatively quickly after the conclusion of their career, and Moss might be one day as well. Only five other Heisman winners occupy the halls of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Three from one voting cycle would be unprecedented.
Keep one year statistical wonders like Johnny Manziel. As the Heisman Trophy goes, I’ll remain a traditionalist with an overall, across the board talent like Woodson. Voters need to start opening their eyes to true greatness in the complete sense instead of falling in love with mere statistical anomalies season by season. Only then can the award start to seem a bit more legitimate.
Do you believe that Woodson is the last great Heisman Trophy winner with 1997 being the last exceptional year for the award, or have other players and seasons in recent history impressed you just as much? Go ahead and make your voice heard.
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