College Sports

Top College Football Players Who Never Won The Heisman Trophy

Joe Burgett - June 16, 2019
College Sports

Top College Football Players Who Never Won The Heisman Trophy

Joe Burgett - June 16, 2019

Reggie Bush, USC
Photo Credit: Donald Miralle/Getty Images

9. Reggie Bush

We know what you’re saying, “but he won!” While true, his Heisman was taken away or essentially given back. Basically, it is like he never won it. Therefore, he’s legal to use for this list. Bush was a top player for USC. He was a top reason why they were able to take home two National Championships and get to three in a row from 2003 to 2005.

Photo Credit: Inside Hook

As a sophomore, Bush rushed for 908 yards and seven TDs, had 509 receiving yards and seven TDs, had two punt return touchdowns, and a passing touchdown. As a junior, he rushed for 1,740 yards and 17 TDs, had 478 receiving yards and two TDs, and he had one punt return touchdown. This led Bush to winning the PAC-10 Offensive Player of the Year twice. In 2005, he took home the Doak Walker Award, AP Player of the Year, and Walter Camp Player of the Year. Since his Heisman is vacated, the highest he finished in the Heisman race was 5th in 2004.

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

8. Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey was a gifted player for the Stanford Cardinal when he played for them from 2014 to 2016. His later years were the most successful. In 2015, he rushed for 2,019 yards and eight TDs, with 645 receiving yards and five TDs. This includes kick return & punt return touchdowns. McCaffrey also had two passing touchdowns on the year. Stanford ultimately led the Pac-12 Conference Championship the same year.

Photo Credit: Espn

In 2016, he rushed for 1,603 yards and 13 TDs with 310 receiving yards and three TDs. Both seasons gave McCaffrey First-Team All-PAC 12 honors twice. However, in 2015, McCaffrey saw Consensus All-American honors along with being named the PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year & AP Player of the Year. He also took home the 2015 Johnny Rodgers Award, 2015 Paul Hornung Award, and 2015 Jet Award. Sadly, the highest McCaffrey finished in the Heisman race both years was second in 2015.

Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

7. Adrian Peterson

Peterson is one of the greatest running backs in history and it is quite clear that all of this started with his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma. During this year, Peterson rushed for 1,925 yards and 15 TDs. His dominance on the field led to one of the highest finishes for a true freshman in Heisman history with a second-place finish.

Photo Credit: Draft Kings Nation

He followed it up with a sophomore year where he rushed for 1,104 yards and 14 TDs through an injury-plagued season. His junior year, Peterson rushed for 1,012 yards and 12 TDs, adding a receiving TD on top of it. Yet again doing so through injuries. Adrian would be named a Unanimous All-American in 2004 but was named First-Team All-BIG 12 all three years he was at Oklahoma. Many believe Peterson deserved the 2004 Heisman, sadly, it was not to be.

Tommie Frazier, Nebraska
Photo Credit: Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated

6. Tommie Frazier

It is well-known to college football fans that Frazier was a huge reason why Nebraska went to three National Championship games in a row, winning two of them in 1994 & 1995. However, he was never given the credit he deserved by the Heisman committee.  His best year was in 1995 as part of, what experts claim, is the greatest college football team in history.

Photo Credit: ESPN

In ’95, Frazier passed for 1,362 yards and 17 TDs while he rushed for 604 yards and 14 TDs. This led to Consensus All-American honors and the 1995 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Frazier was named Orange Bowl MVP twice due to the National Title wins that took place there. However, despite losing to Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl for the National Title, Frazier would be named MVP there as well.

Hugh Green, Pitt
Photo Credit: Pitt Panthers

5. Hugh Green

Green was one of the most dominant college football defenders in history. He played for the University of Pittsburgh from 1977 to 1980, putting up big numbers each year. In 1977, he had 92 tackles, 15 for a loss, 12 sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one INT. In 1978, Green had 109 tackles, 12 for a loss, 13 sacks, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and two INTs. The 1979 season saw Green get 135 tackles, 14 for a loss, 11 sacks, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one INT.

Photo Credit: Main Line Autographs

Finally, in 1980, Green managed 123 tackles, 11 for a loss, 17 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. As you can see, Green was literally unstoppable. Green was named to the First-Team All-BIG East 4 times &  took home Consensus All-American honors three times (1978, 1979, 1980). In 1980, he won the Maxwell Award, the Vince Lombardi Award, and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. However, his best Heisman finish was second in 1980.

AJ McCarron, Alabama
Photo Credit: Roll Bama Roll

4. A.J. McCarron

On the surface, people may look at McCarron’s numbers and assume he shouldn’t be a Heisman winner. However, he put up huge numbers for an Alabama Crimson Tide QB and he was a true winner. The best thing McCarron did was also what he didn’t do. He rarely made a turnover, giving the Tide wins based simply on perfection. As a sophomore, he threw for 2,634 yards and 16 TDs.

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle

As a junior, he’d throw for 2,933 yards and 30 TDs. Finally, as a senior, McCarron threw for 3,063 yards and 28 TDs. This resulted in two SEC Championships as well as two BCS National Championships. He also contributed to a third National Title earlier in his career. In 2013, he’d win the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award & The Maxwell Award. Sadly, he finished second in the Heisman race that year.

Vince Young, Texas
Photo Credit:

3. Vince Young

The architect for one of the greatest National Championship wins in history, the Texas Longhorns great known as Vince Young really deserved more respect. Young had two great years at Texas, 2004 & 2005. In 2004, he passed for 1,849 yards and 12 TDs with 1,079 yards and 14 TDs. In 2005, Young would destroy everything. He passed for 3,036 yards and 26 TDs with 1,050 rushing yards and 12 TDs.

Photo Credit: Fox Sports

This 2005 season led to Young winning the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, Maxwell Award, and he was Consensus All-American. Sadly, he lost the Heisman race to Reggie Bush in 2005. This led to a Rose Bowl game with USC and Texas where the Trojans had 2 Heisman winners on offense. Young and the Longhorns would defeat them to become the 2005 BCS National Champions. Young had 467 total offensive yards, scoring three rushing TDs, including the go-ahead game-winner.

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Wisconsin Athletics

2.  Melvin Gordon III

Gordon III was a tremendous running back for the Wisconsin Badgers from 2011 to 2014. He’d get the start his final two years with the team. In his junior year, he rushed for 1,609 yards and 12 TDs. Gordon then exploded his senior year, rushing for 2,587 yards and 29 TDs, along with 153 receiving yards and three TDs.

Photo Credit: NBC 15

Gordon also took part in back to back Big Ten Championships in 2011 & 2012. However, 2014 was his year in which he was named First-Team All-Big Ten & a Unanimous All-American. He’d also win the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Award and the Doak Walker Award. Sadly, he somehow finished second in the Heisman race.  Gordon is clearly one of the best players who never won the Heisman Trophy.

Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Photo Credit: NCAA

1. Deshaun Watson 

The brilliant player who is Watson may be proving he’s an amazing player with the Houston Texans, but we all knew from watching him play with the Clemson Tigers. Watson played for Clemson from 2014 to 2016, however, he started all of 2015 & 2016. In 2015, he put up solid numbers with 4,109 passing yards and 35 TDs with 1,105 rushing yards and 12 TDs.

Photo Credit: Chicago Sun Times

In 2016, he’d pass for 4,593 yards and 41 TDs with 629 rushing yards and nine TDs. For his 2015 campaign, he’d win the ACC Player of the Year & Offensive Player of the Year as well as be named a Consensus All-American. For both seasons, he was named the ACC Athlete of the Year and won both the Davey O’Brien & Manning Awards twice. In 2016, he and the Tigers won in the College Football Playoff National Championship in heart-stopping fashion against the Alabama Crimson Tide as well.