Heisman winners have had great battles to win titles
Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry has said all along that there’s a more important title to win. Sure, the individual honor is nice for the Alabama running back, but the humble young man from Yulee, Fla., is all about winning a national championship.
Alabama gets that chance on Monday when it faces the Clemson Tigers in Glendale, Ariz., for all the marbles. Across the sideline, Henry will see Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, who finished third in the voting this year and also got an invite to New York. Watson got the most Heisman votes of any quarterback this year.
As you’d expect, it’s not all that uncommon for Heisman winners to meet close competitors when a title is on the line. Monday night is no different for Henry and Watson.
Here are a few other memorable gatherings of Heisman winners and almost-equal colleagues:
2014 – Two Heisman winners actually square off
The first-ever game in the College Football Playoff era actually featured two quarterbacks who were already Heisman winners.
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota won the Heisman in 2014 and he squared off with Florida State’s James Winston in the Rose Bowl. Oregon won that day, and Mariota was spectacular in a 59-20 rout of the defending national champions. He threw for 338 yards and two scores, rushed for 62 yards and another score and kept the Ducks offense humming all day long.
Winston, who had never lost a game in his two years as a starter at Florida State, had his worst game as a Seminole that day. Even though he threw for 348 yards, he threw an interception and had a bad fumble. FSU had five turnovers on the day, and Oregon scored a touchdown after each error.
Mariota would lose the national championship game to Ohio State the next week. Not a single player on the field that night for OSU got even one Heisman vote (Injured QB J.T. Barrett was a distant fifth).
2013 – Winston wins Heisman, then a title
Jameis Winston was the runaway Heisman Trophy winner in 2013 and then beat Auburn in the national championship game. RB Tre Mason was sixth in the voting that year for Auburn. But enough about Winston.
2010 – Cam Newton’s clean sweep for Auburn
Auburn QB Cam Newton had a season for the ages in 2010, leading the Tigers to an undefeated season and a national title. He had to beat Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game and he saw a familiar face across the sideline in that game.
Newton was an easy pick for the Heisman that year but Oregon running back LaMichael James finished third. James had rushed for 1,731 yards that season with 21 touchdowns.
Newton passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns that day, and ran for another 64 yards, The great Auburn defense held James to just 49 yards rushing in the Tigers’ 22-19 win.
2009 – For all the marbles, but a month early
The de facto national championship game in 2009 actually came in the first week of December when unbeatens Florida and Alabama met for the SEC title. They were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 practically all year and there was no doubt they were the two best teams in the country.
The game also featured two Heisman winners. Florida QB Tim Tebow had won the Heisman as a sophomore in 2007, and finished third in 2008. He came back for his senior year hoping to win a second Heisman, joining only Archie Griffin with such an honor. But Alabama had other ideas and they pounded the Gators that day in Atlanta and went on to win a national title behind RB Mark Ingram, who would win the Heisman that year. Tebow finished fifth.
Ingram cried tears of joy that day when the Crimson Tide finally got past Florida. Tebow simply cried. Ingram would rush for 116 yards a month later in the title game win over Texas, becoming the first running back since Tony Dorsett to win a Heisman and a national title in the same season.
2005 – Vince Young vs. USC and their matching Heismans
The 2005 title game was a classic. It featured 2004 Heisman winner Matt Leinart at quarterback for USC and he had 2005 Heisman winner Reggie Bush in his backfield. They were taking on the Texas Longhorns and QB Vince Young, who had finished second in the voting to Bush – though by a wide margin.
Texas would win the game on a late Vince Young touchdown on a fourth-and-5 play that goes down as one of the greatest national championship games ever.
Bush would later have his Heisman taken away from him because of NCAA violations and if there had been a re-vote, Young probably would have won.
But we’re not supposed to talk about Bush winning the Heisman. It’s been erased, as if it never happened. But we know better.
1999 – Florida State vs. Virginia Tech for the title
Michael Vick was the quarterback for Virginia Tech that year and they came into the national title game unbeaten against Florida State. The Seminoles would win the game behind QB Chris Weinke, earning Bobby Bowden his second title.
Both QBs had Heisman flirtations. Vick finished third in the voting in 1999 and Weinke won the Heisman the following year.