The Heisman Trophy is one of sports most indelible awards, given to the best college player during a season. There are most valuable player awards in virtually every sport, but no personal award carries the magnitude of the Heisman.
Of course, some Heisman seasons are much bigger than others. Some stand out by their sheer domination, while others culminate a career worth of greatness. The 25 players listed below had outstanding seasons that not only ruled their individual seasons but also have given us lasting memories for years and years.
These are the greatest Heisman-winning seasons of all time.
Allen shredded defenses for 2,427 yards (he was the first back to run for 2,000 regular season yards) and 23 total touchdowns. He set or tied 16 records in 1981, including most 200 yard games in a season, career and highest per-game average.
Bradford would become the second sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy (Florida's Tim Tebow would win it the prior season) by leading one of the top scoring offenses in college football history. Bradford would throw for 4,464 yards and 48 touchdowns (and only six interceptions) and add five rushing scores. Oklahoma would become the first team to score 60 or more points in five consecutive games. Bradford was the first player in over 50 years to win the Heisman Trophy despite not receiving the most first place votes. (Tebow had nine more first place votes.)
Campbell led the nation in rushing in 1977 with 1,744 yards and 19 touchdowns. He saved the best for last, as he ran for a career-high 222 yards in his final regular-season game against Texas A&M to help his team finish the season undefeated. (The Longhorns would lose to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.) He finished his Texas career with 40 touchdowns in 40 games.
Cassady had a huge season in 1955, rushing for 964 yards and 15 touchdowns...numbers that were ridiculous at the time. He also never had a pass completed against him when he played defensive back.
"Mr. Outside" had a remarkable career and it could be argued that his 1945 season, when his teammate Doc Blanchard won it, was more worthy of the Heisman Award. Davis rushed for 712 yards in 1946 with seven touchdown rushes and six receiving touchdowns. Davis was a runner-up for the Heisman in 1944 and 1945 before winning it in 1946.
As Dayne was wrapping up his Heisman season, he would break Ricky Williams' career rushing yards mark. He ran for 2,034 yards and 20 touchdowns, capping off a career that featured two seasons in which he ran for at least 2,000 yards. He also rushed for at least 1,400 yards in all four years.
Dorsett set the all-time career rushing mark in 1976 with his 2,150 yards and 23 touchdowns. His biggest moment of the season was when he shredded Penn State for 224 yards en route to a national championship for the Panthers.
Flutie's Heisman season is remembered mainly for one play: the Hail Flutie against Miami. The truth is that Flutie had already done a lot to earn his Heisman Trophy. He passed for 3,454 yards and 27 touchdowns that year and became the first quarterback in 13 years to win the Heisman.
So which one of Griffin's Heisman seasons was the best? His junior year makes this list, as he ran for a career-high 1,695 yards and 12 touchdowns. Griffin averaged 6.6 yards per carry and 111 yards per game for the Buckeyes. He dominated the Heisman voting that season, beating USC's Anthony Davis by over 1,000 points.
Howard was a lethal receiver and returner for Michigan, and it all came together for a magical 1991 season. He actually led the Big Ten in scoring that year. He caught 985 yards worth of passes for 19 touchdowns, rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns and returned 694 yards worth of punts and kicks for two more touchdowns.
Kinnick once played 402 consecutive minutes as the Hawkeyes quarterback and defensive back and missed only 18 minutes of game time all season long. He threw for 11 touchdowns despite attempting just 31 passes all season. He was involved in 107 of the 130 points the Hawkeyes scored that season, leading Iowa to a 6-1-1 mark, and he was named The Associated Press Athlete of the Year. Iowa's football stadium was renamed Kinnick Stadium and is the only college football field named after a Heisman winner.
Mayfield followed up 2016 when he was a Heisman runner-up by winning the award in 2017. He threw for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns while completing 71 percent of his passes and tossing just five picks. He led the Sooners to a College Football Playoff berth and finished the year with a passer rating of 203.76.
Murray stunned everyone by replacing Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and winning his own award the very next year. Murray (who was playing out the year before heading to play in the Oakland Athletics' farm system) threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,001 yards and 12 more scores. His season went so well that he became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Newton played just one season at Auburn, but it was one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had. He threw for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns as well as rushed for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns as he led the Tigers to a national championship. Newton's Heisman moment was when he brought Auburn back from a 24-0 deficit to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
Rozier was the main cog in a Cornhuskers' potent rushing attack in the early 1980s. In 1983, Rozier rushed for 2,148 yards and 29 touchdowns, and his 7.8 yards-per-carry that season is among the best all time. In a game against the Kansas Jayhawks, Rozier would rush for 230 yards...in the first half. He ended the season with four consecutive 200-yard games.
Sanders' 1988 season is one of the best campaigns in sports history, let alone in college football. Sanders ran for 2,850 yards and 44 touchdowns (including the bowl game). He had seven games in which he rushed for at least 200 yards and four games when he ran for at least 300 yards. Only 13 schools in 1988 rushed for more yards than Sanders did by himself.
Simpson nearly (read: should have) won the Heisman trophy in 1967, but he certainly dominated the award in 1968. Simpson ran for 1,880 yards and 232 touchdowns and won by what is still the largest margin of victory for a Heisman winner. In his final game as a Trojan, he ran for 171 yards and a TD in a loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
Tebow's 2007 was filled with firsts. He was the first quarterback to throw for 20 touchdowns and run for 20 touchdowns. (His 23 rushing touchdowns set the mark for most in a season by a player in any position in SEC history.) He also was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. Amazingly, his 2007 Heisman season was sandwiched between two national championships won by Tebow and Florida.
Testaverde continued Miami's remarkable run of great quarterbacks by becoming the first one to win a Heisman. In 1986, Testaverde passed for 2,557 yards and 26 touchdowns in leading the Hurricanes to an undefeated regular season. (Miami would lose to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.) He blew away the Heisman voting field, as he received 1,541 more points than Temple's Paul Palmer.
This is how the Heisman trophy works sometimes: Walker's 1981 season was even better, but Marcus Allen's year earned him the award. So Walker's 1982 season instead made him a Heisman legend. He ran for 1,752 yards and 17 touchdowns that season despite playing a few games in a cast. Georgia lost its shot at a national championship when Penn State beat the top-ranked Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl.
Ward and Florida State had a magical 1993 season when the program won its first national championship and first Heisman Trophy. Ward threw for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He also rushed for 339 yards and four scores, and he holds the third-biggest margin of victory in Heisman history.
Williams rushed for 2,427 yards and 30 touchdowns in 1998 and set the all-time career rushing mark. He had two games in which he rushed for six touchdowns and another where he ran for five. Williams also had five games in which he ran for at least 200 yards (and twice ran for over 300) that year and shares the record for career 200-yard games.
Winston had one of the best freshman seasons ever when he won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship. He threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns (he also ran for four scores), and he won the Offensive MVP of the BCS Championship. Winston would win the Heisman, Maxwell, Manning, Griffin and Associated Press Awards that year.
When you are the only primary defensive player to win a Heisman trophy — especially when the guy who finished in second place was Peyton Manning — you've had one of the best seasons ever. Woodson picked off passes, defended some of the best receivers and even returned punts. He was a major player who led the Wolverines to a share of the 1997 national championship.
Not only did Wuerffel put up stats befitting of a Heisman winner (3,625 yards passing, 39 TDs) but also it was whom he did it against. The Gators faced No. 1 Florida State twice, No. 2 Tennessee, No. 11 Alabama, No. 12 LSU and No. 16 Auburn en route to its first national championship. Wuerffel ran Steve Spurrier's "fun and gun" offense efficiently and better than anyone who came through his Florida program.