We’ve avoided going too far back with the entries on this list because the standard of football began to increase drastically from the 1980s onwards. But we’ve made a high-profile exception in the case of the infamous O.J Simpson. Before he became the center of controversy in the courtroom, he starred on the playing field.
Another player who came very close to winning the Heisman Trophy the year before he actually did, Simpson was brilliant in 1968. The USC Trojans star dragged his team kicking and screaming to the Rose Bowl final where they eventually lost out to Ohio State. Yet he still rushed for 1,880 yards and 232 touchdowns in a record-breaking year.
Walker came very close to winning the Heisman Trophy during an outstanding 1981 season but had to wait another year to claim the individual prize. With Marcus Allen out of the picture, the legendary University of Georgia running back proved his worth to the nation.
First of all, bear in mind that Walker played most of the year with a broken thumb. Then consider that he rushed for 1,752 yards and 16 touchdowns. Those are outstanding numbers. It’s remarkable to imagine him fully healthy because he would have been even better.
Newton took the road to Auburn University after the Florida Gators threw him out. It was worth the journey because he delivered the Tigers’ their first-ever National Championship. Football is amazing because one player can transform a college team or NFL franchise. That’s what the future NFL MVP did.
In his single season with Auburn, Newton delivered on every front. First, he threw for 2,854 yards with 30 touchdowns. This massive on-field contribution led to him winning the Heisman Trophy. Furthermore, Newton was also the 2010 SEC Offensive Player of the Year.
One of the greatest players in Raiders history, Allen spent a total of 15 years in the NFL, spending his final five seasons with the Chiefs. However, it all began at the University of Southern California, where Allen starred for the Trojans. In 1981, he won the Heisman Trophy after a superb season.
Allen proved unstoppable on the playing field as he rushed for 2,342 yards. He also contributed 22 touchdowns in an excellent individual season. USC retired the future Super Bowl winner’s number 33 jersey in recognition of his greatness and contribution to the school.
One of the University of Pittsburgh’s greatest ever players, Dorsett was excellent for the Panthers in 1976. The running back was lightning quick and opposing defenses couldn’t stop him. Overall, he rushed for 2,150 yards as he ran towards a host of individual awards like the Heisman Trophy and the Maxwell Award.
Meanwhile, he helped his school to a national title and broke the NCAA rushing record with a grand total of 6082 yards, a total that stood for 22 years. When he departed Pittsburgh, the school retired his jersey. This was a massive landmark because Dorsett was the first player from the college to receive this honor.
Sanders had a magnificent Heisman Trophy season in 1988. The Oklahoma State running back was brilliant all season as he put up outstanding numbers. After sitting behind Thurman Thomas for a season, Sanders took full advantage of being the Cowboys’ main man when the opportunity came.
He rushed for 2,628 yards and 39 touchdowns throughout a glorious campaign. Furthermore, Sanders’ stat line still holds up today. There’s no doubt that his athletic qualities would have blossomed in the modern era. Finally, the Detroit Lions’ legend was a Pro Bowl selection in each of his 10 seasons in the NFL.
On paper, Burrow is one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winners of all-time. The former LSU standout was phenomenal in 2019. Almost all of the voters agreed with Burrow achieving over 90% of the vote. In sum, it was no surprise after a year where he completed 4,715 passes with a record-breaking 77.9% completion rate.
Following his miraculous season, Burrow entered the 2020 draft where the Cincinnati Bengals nabbed him as the first overall pick. This young man has an exciting career ahead of him. However, if he can emulate his success at the college level in the NFL, he’ll be onto a winner.