Alabama RB Mark Ingram
It's back to history class in anticipation of the upcoming presentation of the 2013 Heisman Trophy, as we take a look at some of the closest votes in the award's storied history.
Winning the bronze statue is akin to winning a college football MVP trophy, but tradition makes it so much more than that. Not to take anything away from college basketball, but how many James Naismith award-winners can you name?
Here's a guess that it probably isn't nearly as many as the number of Heisman Trophy winners you can rattle off. From Billy Cannon of LSU to Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State to Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, winning the Heisman means having your name etched in sports history, and the conversation leading up to the presentation is part of what makes the whole thing so special.
You'll probably find preseason Heisman lists for 2014 the moment this season's national title game ends, and the conversation only grows louder as the season moves along. In the end, a select few players are invited to New York, where one walks away with the greatest individual award he's ever likely to win.
As with anything else in sports, the debate over who should have won or finished higher in the voting will rage on long after the the trophy is awarded, and the closest Heisman races are still talked about to this day.
Let's take a look at the five closest votes in the history of the Heisman Trophy.
Nebraska QB Eric Crouch
With just 62 points having separated quarterbacks Eric Crouch and Rex Grossman, the 2001 Heisman Trophy makes its way onto the list of the closest votes in the award's history.
This particular year is often brought up in conversation about the history of the bronze statue because the winner, Crouch, went on to have a remarkably unremarkable career in the NFL. In fact, he didn't play a single down of regular-season football.
The Cornhuskers quarterback passed for 1,510 yards and ran for another 1,115, accounting for 25 total touchdowns in his Heisman season.. Of course, those numbers sound silly compared with Tebow's 55 total touchdowns in 2007 or Manziel's 47 in 2012, but they certainly stacked up well with the best the game had to offer in 2001.
In second place was Grossman, quarterback of the high-flying Florida Gators. He threw for nearly 3,900 yards and 34 touchdowns, but was surpassed by the dual-threat abilities of Crouch.
Quarterbacks Ken Dorsey of Miami and Joey Harrington of Oregon rounded out the final four, making it one of the more lackluster final groups in Heisman history if we're taking their future pro careers into account.
It's not often that the final tally separates the top two contenders by less than 100 points, and in this case, late-season heroics, coupled with those oh-so-important (overrated?) "Heisman moments", earned Crouch an award he'll cherish forever.
The Heisman Trophy
You know how long-time fans of college football often refer to the tradition and history of schools like Notre Dame?
Well the winner of the Heisman Trophy in 1953 was halfback John Latner, one of the players who helped build that tradition by doing did everything for the Fighting Irish in the early 50's. Over his career, Latner gained 3,095 total yards and scored 20 touchdowns, but he won the award by just 56 votes over Minnesota tailback Paul Giel.
Latner earned his Heisman not just by rushing the ball, but by passing, receiving and returning kicks as well. Oh, and Latner intercepted 13 passes during his career, a mark that would look impressive even by today's lofty standards. He was also the punter for Notre Dame.
Despite Latner's ability to affect the game in a variety of ways, he failed to lead the Irish in any major offensive category in 1953, which would explain the close vote in the final tally.
When you dig this deep into the history books, the statistics (or lack thereof) may shock you compared with those of today's players, who can throw for 400 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game. But football was a different game in Latner's day. His accomplishments are no less impressive than those of players from the past decade.
Rounding out the top four in 1953 were halfback Paul Cameron of UCLA and quarterback Bernie Faloney of Maryland.
With first- and second-place separated by just 53 points in the voting for the 1961 Heisman Trophy, that year's race makes the list of closest Heisman votes ever.
The winner, a legend of the sport, was none other than halfback Ernie "The Express" Davis. His name is one that resonates not only at Syracuse, where he played football, but in the college football world overall.
Davis was the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, and he did so by beating out quarterback Bob Ferguson of Ohio State. Davis led Syracuse in rushing for three straight seasons and finished his career with 2,386 yards rushing, breaking the school mark previously held by Jim Brown.
The reason the vote between Davis, Ferguson and the rest of the candidates was so close was because no player won more than one region out of the five that voted. Davis took the East, Ferguson held the Midwest and three other players each won the South, Southwest and Far West.
But this particular Heisman tale was bittersweet. Davis was diagnosed with leukemia just months after winning the award and died less than two years later in 1963.
His legacy, however, will live on throughout the history of the sport, and the fact that he only barely beat out the Buckeyes' starting signal-caller only adds to the rich history of the Heisman Trophy.
Auburn RB Bo Jackson
If you were to compile a list of the greatest all-around athletes in human history, Bo Jackson would be at, or near, the very top. Winning the Heisman Trophy is the greatest achievement for many players who've captured the award, but it's just one of many incredible athletic achievements by Jackson.
As great as Jackson was, however, he still just barely beat out Iowa quarterback Chuck Long, who finished 45 points behind the Auburn running back.
Of course, you probably know all about Jackson, who played professional football and baseball. In his Heisman-winning season, Bo rushed for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns.
But it's what Long did that may have escaped your memory. In his senior season, the Hawkeyes quarterback threw for 2,978 yards and 26 touchdowns, although his 15 interceptions may be what swayed some voters in Jackson's favor.
Nearly 30 years after the fact, it almost seems silly that Jackson was so close to not winning a Heisman Trophy, but the award can't predict the future or take into account what might happen in the players' respective professional careers.
Despite such a close vote, Jackson remains one of the greatest winners of the bronze statue and one of the best players in the history of football.
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
In perhaps the most controversial finish in the history of the Heisman Trophy, Alabama running back Mark Ingram took home the award over Stanford running back Toby Gerhart by a mere 28 points.
Ingram, the first Crimson Tide player to win the prestigious award, rushed for 1,658 yards and 18 touchdowns while tacking on three receiving scores as well. Meanwhile, Gerhart rushed for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns that same season for the Cardinal.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy finished in third, just 131 points behind Gerhart, but the real drama came at the top, as folks debated whether Gerhart's numbers were more impressive than what Ingram did against tougher competition.
In any case, the voters spoke and Ingram brought the stiff-arm trophy home to Tuscaloosa. What he did paved the way for several more sensational running backs to come through Nick Saban's offense, including Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon this season.
Stanford has continued to mow through the heart of defenses with physical backs eerily reminiscent of Gerhart.
Regardless of who deserved to win, it may be the last time we see running backs finish in the top two spots for the Heisman Trophy. Dual-threat quarterbacks have taken home the Heisman each of the past three seasons.