Ranking the SEC's top 10 Heisman Trophy winners
It’s a time-honored award. Players mimic the pose. A mural of your face is commissioned. The Heisman Memorial Trophy is the most heralded award in college football. It’s steeped in history, often referred to as a fraternity. Past winners have strong opinions about who joins their club.
And if your team has a Heisman contender in late November, it’s likely your team is also in championship contention. The Heisman has been awarded annually since 1935, and the SEC is second among Power Five conferences all-time with 13 winners. The Big Ten leads all conferences with 19, followed by the SEC, the Pac-12 with 11, the Big 12 with 10, the ACC with eight and Notre Dame with seven.
So who are the 10 best winners out of the SEC’s 13-all time? There are iconic names on the list; names whose performances have shaped the Southeastern Conference into what we know and love today. First, let’s get you up to speed on SEC winners.
- 1942 – Frank Sinkwich, Georgia
- 1957 – John David Crow, Texas A&M (non-SEC player)
- 1959 – Billy Cannon, LSU
- 1966 – Steve Spurrier, Florida
- 1971 – Pat Sullivan, Auburn
- 1980 – George Rogers, South Carolina
- 1982 – Herschel Walker, Georgia
- 1985 – Bo Jackson, Auburn
- 1996 – Danny Wuerffel, Florida
- 2007 – Tim Tebow, Florida
- 2009 – Mark Ingram, Alabama
- 2010 – Cam Newton, Auburn
- 2012 – Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
That’s a distinguished list. You may be thinking there’s no way we can rank the top 10 out of that list, but we can. And we’re going to.
1. Bo Jackson, Auburn
Jackson’s 1985 campaign was one for the ages. He led the SEC in rushing attempts, rushing yards and touchdowns, and finished second in the NCAA in rushing yards and touchdowns. The Birmingham, Ala. native carried Pat Dye’s team that season to an 8-4 record and cemented himself as one of the SEC’s greatest players ever.
2. Herschel Walker, Georgia
Walker’s 1982 season closely resembles that of Jackson’s ’85 performance. Walker shredded opposing defenses for 1752 yards and 16 touchdowns, which led the conference and ranked in the top four nationally. Jackson led the Bulldogs to an 11-1 record and a Sugar Bowl birth, where they eventually lost to number two Penn State.
3. Cam Newton, Auburn
After transferring from Florida, Cam Newton lit up the Plains in Gus Malzahn’s offense. Newton shattered conference and national records in 2010, leading Auburn to their first national championship since 1957. He led the NCAA in total touchdowns and finished third in total yards, burning defenses for 2,854 yards through the air and 1,473 yards rushing, leading one of the most prolific offenses college football has even seen.
4. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Not to be outdone, Manziel made his mark in 2012, breaking many of Newton’s records while leading Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies to an 11-2 record. Johnny Football led the conference in rushing and finished second in passing while amassing 47 total touchdowns. Manziel arguably won the Heisman in November by beating top-ranked Alabama on the road in Tuscaloosa.
5. Tim Tebow, Florida
Tebow’s 2007 campaign was one of the greatest in conference history. While throwing for over 3,000 yards and adding nearly 900 to that on the ground, Tebow dominated SEC defenses with his strength and sheer determination. The Gators finished 9-4, but Tebow created a legend en route to winning the Heisman.
6. Steve Spurrier, Florida
Spurrier threw for 2,012 yards, best in the SEC and finished second in the conference in passing touchdowns while leading the Gators to a 9-2 record and an Orange Bowl victory against Georgia Tech. Spurrier would go on to play in the NFL for nine years for the San Francisco 49ers, then make his name as one of the winningest college football coaches of all-time.
7. George Rogers, South Carolina
Rogers was a stud out of the backfield for the Gamecocks in 1980, rushing for 1,781 yards leading all of college football and 14 touchdowns. As a Heisman-longshot at the start of the season, Rogers won decisively when the voting closed. He would go on to a career in the NFL with the Super Bowl-champion Washington Redskins.
8. Mark Ingram, Alabama
It’s still hard to believe Mark Ingram is the only Heisman winner in Alabama’s storied history. Ingram took home the 75th award after a stellar season for the Crimson Tide rushing for a school-record 1,658 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Tide would win the national championship in ’09, going 14-0 and beating Texas in the finale 37-21.
9. Pat Sullivan, Auburn
Sullivan, Auburn’s first Heisman Trophy winner, had a historic season in 1971, leading the SEC in passing yards and touchdowns, throwing for 2,262 yards and 21 touchdowns. He amassed 2,328 total yards while leading Auburn to a 9-2 record and Sugar Bowl birth.
10. Frank Sinkwich, Georgia
Sinkwich was the first Heisman winner from the SEC in 1942. Sinkwich threw for 1,456 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 828 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Bulldogs finished 11-1 and a Rose Bowl win over UCLA while finishing second in the final AP poll.