While Tim Tebow was the first to break the unspoken rule that only juniors and seniors could win the Heisman, there were others before him that should have won—and one of them was a freshman!
There's no doubt in my mind that Tim Tebow deserved the Heisman after such an unparalleled year—but that can't be said about all of the Heisman winners.
These selections caused varying degrees of controversy when they were announced, and they still do today.
Some of those I listed as "should be winners" did not even place second in the balloting, but they were deserving nonetheless. They are listed according to year.
The Winner: Les Horvath, QB, Ohio State
The Robbed: Glenn Davis, RB, Army
This is another case of the best player in the nation being denied the Heisman because he was not a junior or a senior. Horvath was an excellent player on offense and defense. He rushed for 924 yards and led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season.
But Davis, a sophomore, was incredible. He set NCAA records by averaging 11.5 yards a carry and by scoring 20 touchdowns in nine games. For his efforts, Davis won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Trophy as player of the year.
The Winner: Glenn Davis, RB, Army
The Robbed: Charlie Trippi, RB, Georgia
Davis should have already won the Heisman as a sophomore. Although destined to become a legend, this was a somewhat subpar season for Davis.
Trippi captained the undefeated, SEC champion Georgia team that defeated North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl, 20-10. He was also an outstanding defensive player at safety for the Bulldogs. Georgia Tech coach Bobby Dodd once called him the "best safety the South ever had."
Along with his defense, Trippi led the SEC in scoring his senior year with 84 points (14 TDs), rushed for 744 yards on 115 carries, and passed for 622 yards. He was a unanimous All-America choice and was the Maxwell Award winner.
The Winner: Paul Hornung, QB, Notre Dame
The Robbed: Johnny Majors, RB, Tennessee
The very versatile Hornung was a good player who became a great one, but he profited from the ND aura on this one. The only Heisman winner from a losing team, he only ran for 420 yards and racked up 1,337 yards of total offense. The Irish had a record of 2-8.
Majors led Tennessee to a 10-0 undefeated season, was a consensus All- American, and was named by UPI as Back of the Year, along with SEC Player of the Year honors. He passed, ran, punted, and returned punts and kickoffs.
The Winner: Steve Spurrier, QB, Florida
The Robbed: Bob Griese, QB, Purdue
Superior, I mean Spurrier, had an excellent season—passing for over 2,000 yards and 20 TDs before losing to Missouri in the Sugar Bowl. His most memorable play that season was a 40-yard field goal that won a dramatic battle against Auburn.
Griese, a consensus All-American, passed for 1,888 yards and rushed for 230 more. He led Purdue to a Rose Bowl victory over USC, where he completed 10 of 18 and kicked two PATs. Griese went on to earn legendary status as the QB of the NFL’s all-time greatest team.
As a successful coach, Spurrier got more grass stains on his sun-visor than he ever had on his uniform as a player. LSU nicknamed him “Ol’ Shiny Pants."
The Winner: Steve Owens, FB, Oklahoma
The Robbed: Archie Manning, QB, Mississippi
Steve Owens was an exceptionally durable running back who rushed that year for 1,523 yards. He was a workhorse, carrying the ball 358 times for 23 TDs, but the Sooners only went 6-4.
Owens was not a bad pick, but how does Archie Manning finish his career without ever winning college football's most prestigious award? He was the complete package. He could pass and run.
In '69, he passed for 1,762 yards and ran for 502 more. Against Alabama, he passed for 436 yards and ran for another 104. Those 540 yards tied an SEC record. Bear Bryant said that Archie was the best college QB he had ever seen.
The Winner: Archie Griffin, RB, Ohio State
The Robbed: Chuck Muncie, RB, Cal
No way that Archie should have won his second Heisman. The voters went for the novelty of having a two-timer. He rushed for only four TDs, and put up a 46-yard performance against Michigan.
Chuck Muncie ran for 1,460 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry with 13 touchdowns. Griffin wins two and Herschel wins one? Get outta here!
The Winner: George Rogers, RB, South Carolina
The Robbed: Herschel Walker, RB, Georgia
Rogers led the nation with 1,781 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. He was an excellent running back—but not the best. That distinction belonged to a freshman that was causing quite a commotion across the college football scene. Had Herschel not been a freshman, he would have won the Heisman.
He ran for 1,616 yards and 15 TDs, and that was after sitting out 11 quarters because Vince Dooley didn’t want to run up the score on opponents. He could run over you (ask Bill Bates) or around you (he had touchdown runs of 76, 75, 72, 65, 53, and 48 yards).
Walker and Rogers met on the field, and on national TV, he out-dueled George Rogers, 219 yards to 168. Everyone remembers Lindsay Scott's catch against Florida, but let’s not forget that Herschel had a TD and 238 yards rushing in that game.
Against the Irish in the Sugar Bowl, and with the National Championship on the line, Herschel was at his best. While the Irish held the rest of the team to -23 yards, Herschel gained 150 yards and scored both TDs in a 17-10 victory.
Herschel deserved the Heisman. The worst part is he came in third behind Hugh Green, a DE from Pittsburgh.
The Winner: Andre Ware, QB, Houston
The Robbed: Emmitt Smith, RB, Florida
Yes, Ware put up incredible numbers (4,699 yards and 46 touchdowns while guiding the Cougars to a nine-win season and a national ranking), but he did it against a suspect schedule.
Emmitt Smith had 1,599 yards rushing, a 145.4 per game average carrying the ball against the blood and guts defenses of the SEC. He topped 100 yards nine times that year.
The really ridiculous part is that Emmitt wound up seventh in the voting that year! He, of course, went on to NFL fame, but he should have the '89 Heisman in his trophy case.
The Winner: Gino Torretta, QB, U of Miami
The Robbed: Garrison Hearst, RB, Georgia
Gino had a decent year, throwing for 3,060 yards and 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions before losing in the Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama. He enjoyed a stable of fast-track receivers who made him look good. He was average at best.
Hearst set Southeastern Conference records for points scored in a season (126), total touchdowns (21), rushing touchdowns (19), and average yards per carry (6.8).
Hearst was a consensus All-America selection, the Doak Walker Award recipient, ESPN's ESPY Winner for Outstanding Collegiate Athlete, and SEC Player of the year in 1992. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Torretta and Marshall Faulk.
The Winner: Charles Woodson, CB, Michigan
The Robbed: Peyton Manning, QB, Tennessee
Woodson was an extremely versatile player who also saw time as a receiver on offense and as a dangerous punt returner on special teams. As a CB he finished the season with eight interceptions.
Manning passed for 3,819 yards (523 against Kentucky) and 37 TDs, along with completing over 60 percent of his passes. Come on sports fans! Woodson was the media darling—Manning was the real Heisman winner! This one was a joke.