Joe Dudek: A Big Player from a Small School

Ryan PickardCorrespondent IOctober 28, 2009

When people think about Heisman Trophy candidates, they think about conferences like the Big 12, SEC, and Big 10. They think about schools like Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, and Texas.

What do all of these things have in common?

They are all schools or conferences with long and storied traditions.

Most people don't think about Division II players, let alone thinking a player from Division III could ever possibly win the Heisman Trophy.

Joe Dudek was a running back who played for Plymouth State College (now Plymouth State University) from 1982-1985. During his time at Plymouth State, the Panthers, as they are known, went 37-6 going to the Eastern College Athletic Conference playoffs twice, making their first ever NCAA D III appearance.

He set 10 Plymouth State records and numerous NCAA records.

His most famous is the NCAA record for career running touchdowns with 76 in his four years at Plymouth. The former record was held by Walter Payton who had 66 in his four years at Jackson State.

He also set the NCAA record for games with two or more touchdowns (24).

During his career with the Panthers he only missed one game. He had a wide assortment of injuries throughout his four years at Plymouth State, but still managed to play in almost every single game.

Dudek would go on to finish his career at Plymouth with 5,570 rushing yards.

He would end up finishing ninth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1985 as Bo Jackson would end up winning the award. This alone is an amazing feat considering he played in Division III, which ultimately finished his chances at winning the trophy since no player outside of Division I has ever won the award. His cause was helped out a little when Sports Illustrated picked him as their guy to win the trophy.

Despite all his amazing stats he wasn't picked in the draft, although many people figured he would go between the fourth and 10th rounds. He ended up signing with the Denver Broncos and played in just two games rushing for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

I'm sure most people would say he set those kinds of records because he played in Division III and didn't have to play teams like Michigan and USC.

Sure that might have helped his cause a little but still the guy rushed for 76 touchdowns in four years. He ended up averaging just under 20 touchdowns a year and missed one game his entire career.

So next time when you're thinking about who should win the Heisman, you might want to go check out the Division III football Web site and take a look around. You never know what you may find.