I’ll hand it to the Heisman voters. Usually, they pick the right man to walk that aisle at the Downtown Athletic Club and hoist college football’s most coveted honor.
But sometimes, they don’t get it right. In hindsight, there are 10 instances when the voters handed the trophy to the wrong man. Today, we will be looking at three of those instances.
10. Johnny Manziel over Kenjon Barner (2012)
People often speak of Doug Flutie winning the Heisman for one pass. There is certainly merit to that conclusion but Flutie was high on the leaderboard all season long in 1984. Johnny Manziel’s fantastic game against top-ranked Alabama made him a Heisman contender in 2012 and understandably so. However, the trophy belonged in the hands of Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, who finished a distant ninth, with nearly 1,800 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. As usual, West Coast guys who don’t play for USC get punished because people go to bed before their games. Barner was the outstanding college player of the 2012 season.
9. Charlie Ward over Marshall Faulk (1993)
Florida State didn’t deserve the national title in 1993 and Charlie Ward didn’t deserve the Heisman Trophy. Bobby Bowden and his bunch of whiners got a lifetime achievement award that year, which enabled Ward to ride his coattails to the Downtown Athletic Club. Again, the most overlooked player in the country was on the West Coast. San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk put up cartoonish numbers and turned the Aztecs into a legitimate national power that season.
8. Pete Dawkins over Billy Cannon (1958)
Army’s Pete Dawkins was the feel-good story of the 1958 football season, guiding West Point back to national prominence for the first time in years. But Billy Cannon, the 1959 Heisman winner (who finished third in 1958), was just as deserving of the award in 1958, earning a reputation as the nation’s most explosive back and return man in his junior year.
Stay tuned for part two of this series where we will detail three more times the Heisman Trophy went to the wrong player.