10 Worst Heisman Trophy Winners in NFL History
The Heisman trophy is one of the most coveted awards in all of college athletics. It's awarded every year to the best player in college football and although there are numerous biases and shortfalls of the awarding process (only one defensive player, Charles Woodson, has won it since 1949) it is still held in the highest of esteem.
There's ESPN specials, late-night talk show appearances and if you come from a small enough town, even a parade on Main Street.
While the award recognizes the best player in college football, it rarely predicts who will be a good player in the NFL.
In fact, more often than not, Heisman trophy winners are faced with such high expectations that even a decent professional career is overshadowed by TV and radio pundits asking, "What went wrong?"
The latest winner, Cam Newton, surpassed the NFL careers of several Heisman trophy winners in just his first game of the 2011 season. His star looks bright, but recipients of the Heisman trophy are frequently less than average. They are over-hyped by the media looking for one more viewer and given false encouragement by agents seeking a quick buck.
Sadly, Heisman trophy winners turn into professional football losers, and that has been more evident than in the careers of the following athletes.
QB Troy Smith, Ohio State (2006)
Troy Smith has a meltdown on the sidelines after an interception. It would be Smith's last season in the NFL.
Troy Smith may have won the Heisman trophy, but after Florida's dismantling of the Ohio State quarterback in the National Championship game that year, no one was quick to draft him. In fact, he was left on the draft board until the fifth round when the Baltimore Ravens took a small chance on the guy that Tony Kornheiser said on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption had an 80 percent chance of being picked up as high as the second round.
Smith, however, flamed out of the NFL in just four years (which is a bit of a stretch seeing as how he played in just 20 games). He ended his professional career with eight touchdowns passing, three touchdowns rushing and a spot on the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks roster.
QB Danny Wuerffel, Florida (1997)
For 1995 and 1996, Daniel Wuerffel was a first-team All-SEC and a first-team All-American. He helped win a national championship for the Florida Gators, their first of three the team would capture in the next ten years. He set the SEC record (at the time) for most touchdowns, he was the most efficient passer while in college and even earned a spot on the roster for the Florida Gators 100th Anniversary Team.
But when it came time to draft, he was passed up on the first day, finally being selected in the fourth round by the New Orleans Saints. He finished his career just five years later with less yards (2,123) than he compiled in his freshman year (2,220), junior year (3,266) or senior year (3,625) at Florida.
Now Wuerffel is a spokesman for a local insurance company. NFL bust? Quite the understatement.
WR Eric Crouch, Nebraska (2001)
Billed as one of the best double-threats in collegiate quarterback history, Eric Crouch showed that even white guys have game.
In 2001, Crouch won the Heisman trophy on the heels of his successful combination of rushing and passing the ball. He passed for 1,510 yards and seven touchdowns as well as rushed for 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns. How could you not give an athlete like that the Heisman?
The St. Louis Rams drafted him in the third round of the 2002 draft to play wide receiver. Crouch was adamant about playing quarterback. Rams coaches convinced him that his athleticism was better suited for playing wideout, but a hard tackle by a defensive player caused him to have 150cc of blood drained from his leg.
Because of the injury, Crouch left the team before playing a game.
In 2005, Crouch signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, converting to safety. He finished his NFL career with 25 tackles and two passes defended.
Crouch floated around the Canadian Football League for a little while, then the All-American Football League (until it disbanded before its debut). He's currently on the roster for the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks.
So, for your viewing pleasure, please check out this terrible segment put together by the Omaha Nighthawks upon welcoming Eric Crouch.
QB Andre Ware, Houston (1989)
Becoming the first black quarterback to win the Heisman trophy is something Andre Ware will always be remembered for. His career at Houston University earned him the distinction of being drafted with the seventh pick in the first-round by the Detroit Lions.
But Ware never caught on in the NFL, starting only five games and throwing for as many touchdowns.
After five years shuffling around the NFL, Ware played several years for Canadian Football League teams such as the Ottawa Rough Riders and Toronto Argonauts before ending his career playing football in Europe with the Berlin Thunder.
A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Ware is a radio broadcaster for the Houston Texans. Is he as good a radio analyst as he was quarterback? You decide. (Hint: The answer is no)
QB Gino Torretta, Miami (1992)
After leading Miami to a co-national championship in 1991 and then a chance at the title in 1992 (losing to an Alabama program that looked like it could have beaten the Green Bay frickin' Packers), Miami quarterback Gino Toretta opted to enter the NFL Draft.
Toretta was unceremoniously taken in the seventh round by a Minnesota Vikings team that didn't play him at all his rookie season in 1993.
Not playing at all during a season became a theme for Toretta, who didn't play a single down in seven of his eight years in the NFL. His only action came in one game for Seattle when he completed five passes, threw for 41 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Torretta followed his career in the NFL with a position at Wachovia Securities as a Senior Financial Advisor.
And for your viewing pleasure, watch one of the more awkward interviews in college football history.
QB Jason White, Oklahoma (2003)
Just to put how reliable the Heisman trophy voting is at predicting who will have success in the NFL and who won't, consider this: Oklahoma quarterback beat out wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback Eli Manning as the best player in college football for the 2003 season.
Fitzgerald just signed a $50 million contract and Eli Manning has a Super Bowl ring. Jason White? He went undrafted, signed on with the Tennessee Titans practice squad, was released during the season and never caught on with anyone else. Career stats: 0-for-0 in everything.
Currently, White is a small business owner in Oklahoma where he sells Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University sports memorabilia.
That's one of the saddest things I've ever written.
At least White will always have the memory of Oklahoma's fourth quarter comeback against Texas A&M on primetime television.
QB Gary Beban, UCLA (1967)
1967 was the year of UCLA Bruins quarterback Gary Beban.
Not only did he win the Heisman trophy, but he won the Sporting News Award, the Maxwell Award and the Chic Harley Award, all recognizing him as college football's player of the year.
He was signed by the Washington Redskins, but served as a backup to future Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. After two years in the NFL, he retired, having thrown just one pass in his professional career.
Maybe Beban didn't have the passion that other professional football players have. The former Bruin says in this video that he was at UCLA "for the classroom and the scholarship."
RB Rashaan Salaam, Colorado (1994)
Somehow the University of Colorado landed a Heisman trophy winner. His name was Rashaan Salaam (try saying that five times fast).
In his Heisman trophy winning year of 1994 he rushed for a school-record 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns. Salaam helped lead Colorado to an 11-1 record, including a 41-24 win over Notre Dame in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl, and a No. 3 finish in the final Associated Press poll.
His success at Colorado propelled him into the NFL as the Chicago Bears used the 21st pick in the 1995 draft to select him.
Salaam was not unsuccessful his first season.
In fact, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns his first season. At the time, it was a Chicago Bears' rookie record. But injuries and lots of fumbles (nine his rookie season alone) forced the Bears to cut him after just three seasons in which he only gained an additional 500 yards rushing combined).
Cleveland signed him in 1999 and gave him a shot, which he used to rush once for two yards.
QB Charlie Ward, Florida State (1993)
Charlie Ward is a spectacular athlete. It was because of his arm and legs in college that Florida State captured its first national championship in 1993. That season he threw for over 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions.
Quite an accomplishment when you consider that Florida State had to play such powerhouse programs as Notre Dame and Nebraska that year to earn the title.
After the 1993 season, Ward declared he would only play in the NFL if he was drafted in the first round. If not, he was going to the NBA.
Any general managers who were thinking of drafting Ward were immediately off put by the brash young man, unwilling to spend a first-round pick on someone who might jettison to the NBA.
So in the span of six months, Ward went from winning the Heisman trophy and college football's national championship to being drafted by the New York Knicks. Although he was solicited to backup Joe Montana with the Kansas City Chiefs, Ward never even put on a helmet, much take a snap from center. He's one of the only Heisman trophy winners to never play a down in the NFL.
Fun fact: During the mid-1990's, when the New York Jets were having quarterback problems, sportscasters frequently said during Jets games that "the best quarterback in the state of New York is playing for the Knicks."
QB Tim Tebow, Florida (2007)
Tim Tebow is arguably one of the best players in college football history. He won two national championships, was named to three All-SEC teams, was named to three All-American teams and won the Heisman trophy in 2007 (along with a lot of other trophies and awards I bet you never knew existed).
For all those accolades, Tebow wasn't ranked high on a lot of NFL draft pundits' value boards. Many NFL head coaches voiced their concern over Tebow's throwing motion and quality as a true pocket passer.
Josh McDaniels of the Denver Broncos was not one of those coaches. McDaniels lobbied to get Tebow, picking him 25th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. Tebow struggled, McDaniels was fired and now the quarterback's future is in doubt.
While it's true he's only had one year of experience, he's currently third on the Denver Broncos depth chart and not even a blip on the radar of new head coach John Fox's radar.