If you count Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2005, the USC Trojans are tied with Ohio State and Notre Dame atop the leaderboard with seven Heisman winners. USC got a much later start than both the Fighting Irish and Buckeyes as Mike Garrett became the first player to be win college football’s top individual award in 1965.
While leading the nation with 267 carries, Garrett set a Heisman record with 1,440 rushing yards – smashing the previous best of 1,072 rushing yards Billy Vessels posted in 1952. He also ran for 13 touchdowns and caught nine passes for 94 yards and another TD. With the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Garrett carrying the load, the Trojans went 7-2-1 and earned a spot in the top ten of the final AP poll.
In addition to his role as a running back, Garrett handled the majority of the kick return and punt return duties for USC, and scored on two punt returns during his Heisman-winning senior season.
A three-year starter for the Trojans and a two-time All-American, Garrett also broke Ollie Matson’s NCAA career rushing record and finished with 3,221 rushing yards. That mark stood for three seasons until USC’s second Heisman winner, O.J. Simpson, broke it.
Garrett played eight seasons in the AFL and helped the Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl IV. He later entered college athletic administration and became athletic director at USC in 1993 – a position he held until 2010.
(University of Southern California/Collegiate Images via Getty Images)
30. Danny Wuerffel
QB, Sr., Florida, 1996
Danny Wuerffel 1996 Season Statistics
Pass Completions: 207
Pass Attempts: 360
Completion Percentage: 57.5
Passing Yards: 3,625
Passing Yards Per Game: 302.1
Passing Touchdowns: 39
Rushing Attempts: 63
Rushing Yards: -100
Rushing Yards Per Game: 8.3
Yards Per Carry: -1.6
Rushing Touchdowns: 2
Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel nearly won the Heisman Trophy as a junior in 1995 and finished third in the voting after throwing for 3,266 yards and leading the nation with 35 touchdown passes and a 178.4 QB rating. Instead, Wuerffel settled for the Davey O’Brien Award, the Sammy Baugh Trophy and was named SEC Player of the Year as the Gators finished 12-1 with a loss to Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl with the national championship on the line.
In 1996, Wuerffel not only led Florida to the first national championship in school history, he secured the program’s second Heisman Trophy under the direction of the man that won its first: head coach Steve Spurrier. Spurrier’s famed Fun ‘N Gun offense allowed Wuerffel to lead the nation in touchdowns (39) for the second straight season while passing for 3,625 yards and posting a 170.6 passer rating.
Wuerffel won the Heisman in a very close race with Iowa State running back Troy Davis, who gained 2,185 rushing yards and scored 21 touchdowns, and also won the O’Brien Award and the SEC Player of the Year Award for the second straight season. A consensus All-American for the first time, Wuerffel also took home the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.
(Photo by Sporting News/Sporting News via Getty Images)
25. Nile Kinnick
HB/QB, Sr., Iowa, 1939
Nile Kinnick 1939 Season Statistics
Rushing Attempts: 106
Rushing Yards: 374
Rushing Yards Per Game: 46.8
Yards Per Carry: 3.5
Rushing Touchdowns: 5
Pass Completions: 31
Pass Attempts: 93
Passing Yards: 638
Passing Yards Per Game: 79.8
Passing Touchdowns: 11
Numbers don’t always tell the story of a player’s impact.
Iowa legend Nile Kinnick accumulated 374 rushing yards, 638 passing yards, and accounted for 16 total touchdowns for the Hawkeyes in 1939. Kinnick averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and threw 13 interceptions, but he also played defense (and intercepted eight passes), punted, returned kicks and punts and was a drop-kick specialist.
Simply put, Kinnick never came off the field for Iowa, which finished 6-1-1 and ranked No. 10 in the country after having won only two games combined over the previous two seasons.
A consensus All-American, the Maxwell Award winner, and the first football player to be named the Outstanding Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press, Kinnick also gave one of the most appreciated Heisman acceptance speeches in the history of the award. According to his Heisman bio:
In his acceptance speech at the Heisman Dinner, Kinnick reflected the prevailing isolationist mood of the country, saying that he thanked God he had been born in America, “where they have football fields instead of in Europe where they have battlefields.” And he added that he knew, “the football players of this country had rather battle for such medals as the Heisman Trophy than for such medals as the Croix de Guerre and the Iron Cross.”
Those words would hit even closer to home four years later. In 1943, Kinnick was killed in action during World War II.
Kinnick was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951. In 1972, Iowa Stadium was renamed Kinnick Stadium. It is the only college football stadium in the country currently named after a Heisman winner.
(Photo by University of Iowa/WireImage)
24. Rashaan Salaam
RB, Jr., Colorado, 1994
Rashaan Salaam 1994 Season Statistics
Rushing Attempts: 298
Rushing Yards: 2,055
Rushing Yards Per Game: 186.8
Yards Per Carry: 6.9
Rushing Touchdowns: 24
Receiving Yards: 294
Receiving Yards Per Game: 26.7
Receiving Touchdowns: 0
Sometimes Heisman Trophy winners come out of nowhere to post an historic season. Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam was a little-used backup as a freshman in 1992 and gained 158 rushing yards and one touchdown in seven games. As a sophomore, Salaam was a much larger part of the offense, and ran for 844 yards and eight scores, but shared the load with leading rusher Lamont Warren and quarterback Kordell Stewart.
Then, as a junior, Salaam exploded to become just the third player in history to surpass 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. Salaam led the nation with 2,055 rushing yards on 298 carries (which ranked second overall) for an incredible 6.9 yards per attempt that ranked second nationally. His 24 rushing touchdowns were also the most in the country, as were his 24 total touchdowns, 322 touches from scrimmage and his 2,349 total yards of offense.
The 225-pound ball carrier surpassed 100 yards ten times and posted four 200-yard games. Salaam’s production not only earned him a blowout victory in the Heisman race over challengers Ki-Jana Carter, Steve McNair and Kerry Collins, it also made him a consensus All-American, the Doak Walker Award winner and the Walter Camp Player of the Year. With Salaam carrying most of the load, the Buffaloes were 11-1 and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the AP Top 25.
(Jed Jacobsohn via Getty Images)
18. Charlie Ward
QB, Sr., Florida State, 1993
Charlie Ward 1993 Season Statistics
Pass Completions: 264
Pass Attempts: 380
Completion Percentage: 69.5
Passing Yards: 3,032
Passing Yards Per Game: 275.6
Passing Touchdowns: 27
Rushing Attempts: 65
Rushing Yards: 339
Rushing Yards Per Game: 30.8
Yards Per Carry: 5.2
Rushing Touchdowns: 4
Receiving: 1 REC, 10 YD
Most Heisman Trophy winners – especially those that have won the award in the last half-century – go on to the professional ranks surrounded by the hoopla that comes with the honor of being named the best player in college football. In many cases, Heisman winners have gone on to Hall of Fame pro careers. Others have washed out quickly. A few struggle and eventually find themselves on lists of the biggest busts in NFL history. Some aren’t even drafted.
Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward, who won the 1993 Heisman Trophy (as the first FSU player to do so) and led the Seminoles to their first national championship, wasn’t drafted and never played in the NFL. However, he shouldn’t be considered a bust. After all, Ward played 11 seasons in the NBA.
After being named ACC Player of the Year and finishing sixth in the Heisman voting in 1992, Ward became the nation’s most dynamic playmaker during his senior season and threw for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns with only four interceptions while completing a nation-leading 69.5 percent of his passes. Also dangerous as a runner in FSU’s fast-paced offense, Ward gained 339 rushing yards and four TDs on the ground.
Ward’s production was impressive, but consider the fact that he spent a great deal of time watching from the sidelines late in blowout victories. The 12-1 Seminoles led the nation in both scoring offense (41.2 points per game) and scoring defense (9.9 points per game) and won seven games by 36 points or more.
Ward won the Heisman by the third largest margin in history, and also won the O’Brien, Unitas, Maxwell, and Camp awards – or, as his Heisman bio says, “literally every award he was eligible for…”
(Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
17. Eddie George
HB, Sr., Ohio State, 1995
Eddie George 1995 Season Statistics
Rushing Attempts: 328
Rushing Yards: 1,927
Rushing Yards Per Game: 149.8
Yards Per Carry: 5.9
Rushing Touchdowns: 24
Receiving Yards: 417
Receiving Yards Per Game: 32.1
Receiving Touchdowns: 1
The sixth of seven Ohio State Buckeys to win the Heisman Trophy (which is tied with Notre Dame and USC for the most all-time), running back Eddie George posted one of the most prolific and well-rounded seasons in college football history in 1995.
George led the nation with 24 rushing touchdowns, 25 touchdowns from scrimmage and 2,344 yards of total offense in 1995, which included 1,927 rushing yards. After rushing for 99 yards in the season opener, George surpassed 100 rushing yards in 11 straight games for the Buckeyes, who went 11-1 in the regular season.
A great receiver out of the backfield, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Pennsylvania native was the team’s second-leading receiver with 47 catches and his 417 receiving yards ranked fourth on the squad. George was also on the receiving end of one touchdown pass.
A consensus All-American that also won the Doak Walker Award, the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, George won a close race for the Heisman ahead of Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier and future Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel. George earned 268 first-place votes to Frazier’s 218 and Weurffel’s 185.
Though he only started two seasons at Ohio State, George left school ranked second on the school’s all-time leaderboard in rushing yards (3,768) and was third in rushing touchdowns (45).
(Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
16. Jameis Winston
QB, RFr., Florida State, 2013
Jameis Winston 2013 Season Statistics
Pass Completions: 257
Pass Attempts: 384
Passing Yards: 4,057
Passing Yards Per Game: 289.8
Passing Touchdowns: 40
Rushing Attempts: 88
Rushing Yards: 219
Rushing Yards Per Game: 15.6
Rushing Touchdowns: 4
It took 77 years for a freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, but when Jameis Winston won college football’s top individual honor in 2013, he became the second straight first-year player to do so.
Winston became the third Florida State quarterback to win the Heisman, and followed Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke by also leading the Seminoles to a national championship. On the strength of Winston’s 4,057 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes, FSU raced to a 14-0 record and a 34-31 victory over Auburn in the final BCS National Championship Game, while racking up 51.6 points per game in the process.
The Alabama native was particularly efficient as a passer and led the nation with a 184.8 rating. Winston’s passer rating at the time of the Heisman ceremony was 190.04, which was the highest ever for a Heisman winner. Though not a true dual threat, Winston was mobile enough to gain 219 rushing yards and added four touchdowns on the ground.
Still 19 years old when he won the award, Winston became the youngest player to win the Heisman. He also won the Davey O’Brien Award, the Manning Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and was named the ACC Player of the Year.
Winston led Florida State to a second undefeated regular season as a sophomore, and threw for 3,907 yards and 25 touchdowns in the process to finish fifth in Heisman voting. Following the 2014 season, Winston entered the NFL Draft and became the No. 1 overall pick.
(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
11. Tim Tebow
QB, Soph., Florida, 2007
Tim Tebow 2007 Season Statistics
Pass Completions: 234
Pass Attempts: 350
Passing Yards: 3,286
Passing Yards Per Game: 252.8
Passing Touchdowns: 32
Rushing Attempts: 210
Rushing Yards: 895
Rushing Yards Per Game: 68.8
Yards Per Carry: 4.3
Rushing Touchdowns: 23
One of the most celebrated college football players of all-time, Tim Tebow became the first sophomore ever to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007.
The left-handed signal-caller made himself a household name while helping the Florida Gators win the national championship as a short-yardage runner as a true freshman. Tebow ran for 469 yards and eight touchdowns and also threw for 358 yards and five TDs as a backup in 2006 before dominating as a sophomore the following season.
The third Florida quarterback to win the Heisman, Tebow completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns with only six interceptions in 2007 while adding a remarkable 895 rushing yards and an SEC-record 23 touchdowns on the ground. Tebow led the nation with 9.4 yards per pass attempt and he ranked second in the country with a 172.5 passer rating. His 32 passing TDs ranked in the top ten in the country and his 55 total touchdowns were second best in the nation.
Tebow faced stiff competition from Arkansas running back Darren McFadden in the Heisman race, and won the award by a final count of 1,957 to 1,703. In addition to the Heisman, Tebow won the AP Player of the Year Award, the Davey O’Brien Award and the Maxwell Award.
Tebow also won the Maxwell as a junior when he threw for 2,746 yards and 30 touchdowns and ran for 673 yards and 12 more scores. Florida won its second national championship in three seasons and Tebow finished third in the Heisman voting. He was voted fifth as a senior after throwing for 2,895 yards and 21 touchdowns with 910 rushing yards and 14 TDs on the ground.
(Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
5. Ricky Williams
HB, Sr., Texas, 1998
Ricky Williams 1998 Season Statistics
Rushing Attempts: 361
Rushing Yards: 2,124
Rushing Yards Per Game: 193.1
Yards Per Carry: 5.9
Rushing Touchdowns: 27
Receiving Yards: 262
Receiving Yards Per Game: 23.8
Receiving Touchdowns: 1
Passing: 0-for-2 with 1 INT
Like O.J. Simpson, Ricky Williams left college as the all-time leading rusher at college football’s highest level. Unfortunately for him, also like Simpson, Williams’ record was short-lived as Ron Dayne broke it the following season.
Nevertheless, after rushing for 4,155 yards combined over his first three seasons with the Texas Longhorns, which included a nation-leading 1,893 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns during his junior season when Williams finished fifth in Heisman voting, the California native saved his best for last.
Williams led the nation in rushing and rushing TDs again as a senior, and finished with 2,124 rushing yards and 27 scores. The performance helped him win the Heisman Trophy in dominant fashion, and Williams set a record by capturing 714 of 920 possible first-place votes, which was a higher percentage (77.6) of first-place votes than any previous Heisman winner. It was also the third-highest number of No. 1 votes in Heisman history to that point.
The second Longhorn to win the Heisman, Williams also earned the Doak Walker Award, the Maxwell Award, the AP Player of the Year Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and was named a Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and a consensus All-American for the second time.
Overall, Williams’ Heisman-winning season helped him set 21 NCAA records during his four-year career. Among them were the 73 career touchdowns and 452 career points Williams scored, which, like his career rushing title, lasted just one season.
(ADAM NADEL/AFP/Getty Images)
4. Cam Newton
QB, Jr., Auburn, 2010
Cam Newton 2010 Season Statistics
Pass Completions: 185
Pass Attempts: 280
Completion Percentage: 66.1
Passing Yards: 2,854
Passing Yards Per Game: 203.9
Passing Touchdowns: 30
Rushing Attempts: 264
Rushing Yards: 1,473
Rushing Yards Per Game: 105.2
Yards Per Carry: 5.6
Rushing Touchdowns: 20
Receiving Yards: 42
Receiving Touchdowns: 1
Cam Newton started his college football career with the Florida Gators. However, after he ran into legal trouble as a sophomore, Newton was suspended from the team and eventually transferred. He landed at Blinn College in Texas where he earned JUCO All-American honors and was became of the most highly recruited players in the nation.
After signing with Auburn, Newton won the starting QB job and immediately won the SEC Player of the Week Award with five touchdowns in his debut against Arkansas State. As a dangerous dual-threat signal caller who was often used as a 6-foot-5, 240-pound battering ram in offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s power rushing attack, Newton amassed 1,473 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns and led the Tigers to a 14-0 record and the BCS National Championship.
Newton threw for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns with seven interceptions while completing 66.1 percent of his passes in his only season at Auburn. He even caught a touchdown pass on a trick play. Newton became just the third quarterback in history to account for 20 or more touchdowns both rushing and passing in a single season and was the first QB in SEC history to surpass 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in the same season.
For his statistical success, as well as his impact on the Auburn (who had been just 8-5 the previous season), Newton won the Heisman in impressive fashion with 2,263 total points and 729 first-place votes.
Simply put, Cam Newton had the biggest impact in one season than any other quarterback in college football history – and his Heisman Trophy-winning 2010 season was the best of any QB Heisman winner.
(Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images for The Heisman)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
The Heisman Trophy is the oldest and most respected award in college football. Saturday night, Alabama running back Derrick Henry became the 81st player in the history of the sport to be recognized not only the nation's best player, but as the Heisman Trust states:
The outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.
Henry not only led the nation with 1,986 rushing yards (which also set a Southeastern Conference record) and 23 touchdowns on 339 carries, he also carried his team to an SEC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. The 6-foot-3, 241-pound Florida native ran over, around and past defenders all season, and then won the race for the legendary bronze statue against stiff competition that included Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
He has now been officially crowned the greatest player of the 2015 season, but how does Henry stack up against the other Heisman winners all-time?
Like the journalists and former winners that vote for the award itself from year to year, there is no scientific formula for ranking every Heisman Trophy winner. Statistics play a large role, though because college football has changed so much from the early days of the award (especially in terms of explosive offensive performances), it would be unfair to simply rely on numbers.
Therefore, a player's impact on his team must be taken into account, including wins, losses and championships, as well as his impact on the game itself. Winning the Heisman vote in a landslide can provide bonus points, but some of the closest races have featured some of the greatest players and beating a strong field is also worthy of recognition.
Spread the Word
This is a list of 40 of the greatest players in college football history, and there is a thin line that separates the best of the best. Nevertheless, we Heisman Trophy winners from No. 40 to No. 1.
Note: Statistics referenced in the pages that follow have been taken from Sports-Reference.com/CFB, unless otherwise noted. In some cases, statistics are unavailable or will differ from those listed in official NCAA record books as the result of bowl game statistics that are not officially recognized by the NCAA.
The original version of this article can be found on FanSided, and ranks all 81 Heisman winners.
See why Derrick Henry and Tim Tebow have more in common than a Heisman