With the College Football Hall of Fame's annual Enshrinement Festival kicking off this week, and having already tackled the power ranking for the Big Ten's Heisman hopefuls, it made sense to take a closer look at the league's Heisman Trophy winners from the past.
Since 1935, the Big Ten conference has produced 14 Heisman Trophy winners. Starting next year, with the addition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the conference, that total jumps to 17.
The Ohio State Buckeyes account for six of the recorded winners, with running back Archie Griffin receiving the honor twice. Troy Smith is the conference's most recent winner, earning the honor in 2006.
Michigan and Nebraska both have three Heisman winners to boast about. Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Penn State all also lay claim to at least one trophy winner.
Trying to rank the Heisman winners turned out to be a challenge similar to climbing a mountain blindfolded and barefoot. There is difficulty in narrowing down the best of the best. Then, add in the different time periods, different styles of football, varying statistics and school records, and the Heisman ranking turns into a stressful chore that requires at least three bottles of Pepto Bismol to finish.
Still, it was worth a shot. Here is a ranking of the Big Ten Heisman Trophy winners, Cornhuskers included.
Minnesota's Bruce Smith was known as a clutch player, scoring three game-winning touchdowns. He also led the Golden Gophers to two undefeated national championship seasons in 1940 and 1941.
Smith was only the third leading rusher on the team, but his play and attitude earned him widespread recognition and respect. His 80-yard touchdown run against Michigan in 1940 is not forgotten among Gopher fans.
Johnny Rodgers won the 1972 Heisman by playing many roles for Nebraska: punt returner, receiver, pass blocker, and running back. Rodgers also won the 1972 Walter Camp Award.
In his three-year career, Rodgers racked up 5,586 all-purpose yards.
The 1950 Heisman Trophy winner, Vic Janowicz, was a quintuple threat. He was a running back, quarterback, kick returner, punter, and safety.
On top of his defense and kicking—he recorded 21 punts for 685 yards—he accounted for 16 touchdowns and 875 yards in total offense.
In 1944, Les Horvath won the Heisman when he rushed for almost 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns on 163 carries to average 5.7 yards per carry. At the time, he set a new Big Ten rushing record.
He also completed 14 of 32 passes for 344 yards and six touchdowns.
Horvath was also one of Ohio State's top tacklers in his time.
In 2001, Nebraska's Eric Crouch won the Hesiman Trophy after a season full of breaking records.
Crouch is the all-time record holder for total offense in the Big 12 with 7,915 yards, 59 career rushing touchdowns, and 29 career passing touchdowns.
In addition to the Heisman, he won the 2001 Davey O'Brien and Walter Camp Awards.
Penn State's John Cappelletti won the 1973 Heisman award after helping the Nittany Lions put together an undefeated season.
He gained 1,522 yards on 286 carries, scoring 17 touchdowns in the process.
Cappelletti was also awarded the 1973 Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award. In his two-year running career, he averaged 120 yards per game and over five yards per carry.
Alan "The Horse" Ameche rushed for 3,212 yards in 673 carries—a NCAA four-year rushing record—and scored 25 touchdowns in 1954.
During his career at Wisconsin, he ran for more than 100 yards 16 times.
Ameche was named Big Ten MVP. He was also a consensus All-American and received the first-ever Walter Camp Memorial Trophy.
Howard Cassady compiled 4,403 all-purpose yards while at Ohio State, rushed for 2,466 yards and scoringg 37 touchdowns in the process.
In 1955 Cassady won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award and AP Athlete of the Year. He was the third pick in the 1956 NFL draft.
Michigan's Tom Harmon won the Heisman in 1940, after coming in runner-up to Iowa's Nile Kinnick in 1939.
Harmon rushed for 2,134 yards, passed for 1,304 yards and scored 16 touchdowns during his career as a Wolverine. He was also a good kicker, averaging over 50 yards a punt.
Ohio State's Eddie George made the most of his senior year. George rushed for 1,927 yards—a single-season record—and 24 touchdowns in 1995.
He ran for 100 yards or more in 12 consecutive games,
In addition to the Heisman Trophy, George received the Doak Walker Award, the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Desmond Howard became the first receiver in Big Ten conference history to lead the league in scoring with 138 points.
Howard amassed 37 touchdowns in his career as a Wolverine. The year he won the Heisman, he caught 61 passes for 950 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Howard won the Heisman by the second largest margin of victory in the trophy’s history, capturing 85 percent of the first-place votes. He also earned a Maxwell Award and a Walter Camp Award.
ESPN Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg labels Troy Smith the Big Ten Player of the Decade.
As a junior, Smith threw for 2,282 yards, 16 touchdowns, and four interceptions, to go along with 611 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns on 136 carries.
In 2006, he completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,507 yards, 30 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
In his career, Smith passed for 5,720 yards and rushed for 1,197 more. He won the Heisman Trophy with almost 87 percent of the first place votes, a record.
The coin flipped at the start of every Big Ten football game bears the image of Iowa's Nile Kinnick for several reasons.
Kinnick did it all for Iowa: running back, quarterback, punter, and defensive back. Kinnick set 14 school records at Iowa, including a career record of 18 interceptions. He played 402 consecutive minutes of football before separating his shoulder in the final game of the 1939 season.
He won the Big Ten MVP award by the largest margin in history on his way to beating out Michigan's Tom Harmon for the Heisman Trophy.
Kinnick also won the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, beating out Joe DiMaggio and Joe Louis to become the first college football player to win the award.
College Football News ranked Nile Kinnick as the ninth greatest college football player of all-time.
Nebraska's Mike Rozier put up monster numbers during his Heisman winning year.
In 1983, Rozier rushed for 2,148 yards and 29 touchdowns. He averaged an jaw-dropping 7.8 yards-per-carry, an NCAA record.
Rozier went over 200 yards in each of his last four regular season games.
Michigan's Charles Woodson was ranked No. 11 on ESPN's Top 25 Players in College Football History list, and for good reason.
As a freshman in 1995, Woodson recorded five interceptions and was selected Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
In 1996, he set a school-record for pass breakups with 15 on the way to winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Jim Thorpe Award.
In 1997, Woodson beat out Peyton Manning to win the Heisman to become the only primarily defensive player to win the award. Woodson had eight interceptions that year, to go along with a couple receiving touchdowns and a punt return for a touchdown.
Ron Dayne was an absolute beast on the football field, and easily one of the best running backs in the history of college football.
Dayne was the starting running back all four years at Wisconsin, carrying the ball a total of 1,220 times during his career. It's not a wonder why Dayne's 6,397 career yards still stand as a record.
He rushed for 1,863 yards as a freshman, 1,421 yards as a sophomore, 1,325 more yards as a junior and 1,834 as a senior.
Dayne helped Wisconsin make it to four bowl games, including two separate Rose Bowl trips in 1999 and 2000. He was named most valuable player in both Rose Bowls, becoming only the third player in the history to repeat as MVP.
Archie Griffin is arguably the best running back to ever play on a Big Ten conference football field. He is college football's only two-time Heisman trophy winner and the only player to start four Rose Bowl games.
Griffin became the first Buckeye sophomore to rush for more than 1,000 yards. As a junior, he rushed for 1,695 more yards on his way to earning Big Ten Player of the Year. As a senior, he ran for 1,450 more yards and won the Walter Camp Player of the Year award for the second time.
Griffin still holds the NCAA record for more consecutive consecutive 100-yard games at 31.