Alabama's DeVonta Smith won the 2020 Heisman Trophy on Tuesday night and Trevor Lawrence announced Wednesday he was declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft — no duh. So despite being a national champion and the most can't-miss NFL prospect in at least a decade, Lawrence will leave Clemson without having won college's football's most prestigious award.
Which obviously puts him right up there at the top of the best players to ever play college football to not win the sport's top prize. And that naturally led me down the path of wondering which other all-time greats are the best to never win a Heisman. Let's discuss.
5. Tua Tagovailoa
Tua seemed like he was on track to win the award through most of the 2018 season before Kyler Murray caught fire en route a to a Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff matchup against Tagovailoa's Crimson Tide. But Tua finished the season with 3,966 passing yards, 43 touchdowns and just six interceptions while completing 69 percent of his passes. And he lost a shot to win it the following year after suffering a season-ending injury. One of the greatest college quarterbacks to ever do it who just never had it all line up.
4. Adrian Peterson
Arian Peterson rushed for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2004 and finished second in the Heisman voting to Matt Leinart, who had what would be considered a rather pedestrian season by Heisman QB standards today. There still hadn't been a freshman to win the award at the time, either, which was still something old media members cared about like somebody couldn't possibly be the best player in college football if he was a freshman. But Peterson probably was in 2004.
3. Trevor LawrenceTrevor Lawrence had three awesome seasons, but just always had some really stiff competition. His best season came in 2019 when he had 3,665 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions, but just happened to do it in a year when Joe Burrow had possibly the greatest season by a college quarterback ever. Despite the fact he was the best prospect in college football all three years he played, Lawrence just never quite piled up enough numbers.
2. Darren McFadden
Darren McFadden finished runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in back-to-back seasons — y'all need to go look at how egregious Troy Smith's 2006 Heisman was — but never got over the hump. In his three seasons at Arkansas, McFadden rushed for 4,590 yards and 41 touchdowns. He was one of the most electrifying players in college football history.
1. Peyton Manning
And now finally for the impetus of this blog. All those other players were great and you could make arguments that any one of them should have a Heisman. But Charles Woodson's 1997 Heisman Trophy is the most fraudulent award ever given out in the history of both amateur and professional sports. It was a complete farce.
Manning threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns — 23 years ago, when neither of those numbers was common — and Woodson had seven interceptions. That's it. And not that the Heisman is a lifetime achievement award, but Manning's season came in the final year of one of the greatest careers in the history of college football. The 1997 Heisman Trophy will never be a legitimate award in the eyes of anyone who knows anything about college football.