History Shows the Heisman Means Nothing

Zeke FuhrmanAnalyst IIIDecember 9, 2008

When you win a Heisman Trophy, the Archie Griffin Award, the Walter Camp Award, College Football Player of the Year, the Davey O'Brien Trophy, the Fiesta Bowl MVP, and the AP Player of the Year, you are a good player. Your draft stock should be shooting through the roof. You should be getting calls from Nike and Gatorade. You expect to go No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft.

But you don't go No. 1. You don't go No. 2. You don't go in the first round. You don't even get selected on the first day of the draft. You sit in your living room and watch quarterbacks Isaiah Stanback and Jeff Rowe drafted ahead of you. Finally, with the last pick in the fifth round, you are selected.

Welcome to the life of Troy Smith.

Unless a highly qualified veteran stands in your way, the Heisman Trophy winner should start, right? Troy Smith, who was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, did have former MVP Steve McNair ahead of him. But when McNair went down with an injury, Smith was left on the sidelines in favor of Kyle Boller, a former first-round selection by the Ravens.

Stories like Smith's aren't uncommon for former Heisman winners.

In 1982, Hershel Walker won the Heisman while attending the University of Georgia in his junior year. Walker then elected to leave school, which violated NFL rules (you had to be out of high school for four years), and signed with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, citing he could receive endorsement money. He signed contracts with McDonald's and Adidas. While with the Generals, Walker led the league in rushing twice and won the 1985 USFL MVP in his three years in the USFL.

Walker declared for the 1986 NFL Draft, where he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round, the lowest ever at the time for a former Heisman winner. Walker saw minimal success in the NFL. Although he was a two-time Pro Bowler (1987 & 1988), Walker rushed for only 8,000 yards and 61 touchdowns in 11 NFL seasons.

In 1989, Andre Ware was tearing up the turf at the University of Houston. After throwing for 4,700 yards, 44 touchdowns, and setting 26 NCAA records, Ware became the first black quarterback to win the Heisman. He was selected 11th overall in the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

During his time in Detroit, he was primarily a backup behind Rodney Peete and Erik Kramer, and played in only 14 games during his three years in Detroit. In 1994, he signed with the San Diego Chargers, but was relegated to the practice squad and never saw an NFL snap again. 

In 1995, Ware retreated to the CFL, where he played for three different teams in his three years there. In 1999, he went overseas and played for the Berlin Thunder of the NFL Europe league. Ware is considered one of the top draft busts in the modern NFL era, and has the unique distinction of being a flop in Canada as well.

Ty Detmer, perhaps the greatest BYU quarterback, won the Heisman in 1990. He won the Davey O'Brien Trophy, which goes to the nation's best quarterback, twice (90 & 91). When he left BYU, he held 59 NCAA records, and tied for three others. But his draft stock wasn't very high, and he was selected in the ninth round of the 1992 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. Detmer played for six teams during his fourteen year NFL career, and never once saw the same success he saw in college.

Gino Torretta led the Miami Hurricanes to an undefeated 1991 season and a co-championship after beating No. 1 Florida State, and 1992 championship game, where they defeated Alabama 34-13. Torretta won the Heisman in 1992. Despite his collegiate success, he was selected in the seventh round of the 1992 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He played for five teams in a six year NFL career. He now works for Wachovia Securities as a Senior Financial Adviser.

Rashaan Salaam, running back for the University of Colorado, won the Heisman in 1994, after rushing for a school-record 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns and leading Colorado to an 11-1 record, including a 41-24 win over Notre Dame in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl. Salaam was selected with the 21st overall pick by the Chicago Bears in the 1995 NFL Draft.

After struggling with injuries, fumbles, and marijuana, Salaam was released by the Bears after three years in the Bears' organization. He signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Browns in 1999, but appeared in only two games. After one season in Green Bay, Salaam headed north to play for the Toronto Argonauts. After more marijuana troubles, the Argos suspended Salaam, ending his pro career.

Eric Crouch had one of the best collegiate careers in the history of college football. He rushed for 59 touchdowns (the most for a QB), he is one of only three D-I quarterbacks to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 3,000, and scored 88 offensive touchdowns. Crouch was selected with the 95th pick in the 2002 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. But the Rams wanted him to play wide receiver, saying he was too short to play QB in the NFL. After a hard hit in the preseason, Crouch injured his leg, and left the Rams without playing in a regular season game.

Crouch had an unfaltering desire to play quarterback. He signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2004, but requested to be released after they selected Aaron Rodgers in the 1st round of the draft. Crouch signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, and played for the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europe, where he was converted into a safety.

Crouch signed with the Toronto Argonauts to play quarterback, but another injury eventually led to his release. He now plays for the AAFL for Team Texas.

After throwing for 40 touchdowns and only eight interceptions, Oklahoma quarterback Jason White won the Heisman Trophy in 2003. White was also the recipient of the Associated Press Player of the Year, consensus All-American, consensus Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, the Davey O'Brien Award and the Jim Thorpe Courage Award in his 2003 season. He was awarded a medical hardship by the NCAA and allowed to play a second senior year in 2004, after missing the 2001 and 2002 seasons with an ACL tear.

White saw similar success in 2004 where, with the help of 2004 Heisman runner up Adrian Peterson, he led the Sooners to the Rose Bowl, where they lost to USC 55-19. White was a finalist for the 2004 Heisman, and tried to become the first two-time winner since Archie Griffin, but finished third behind Matt Leinart and teammate Adrian Peterson.

White entered the 2005 NFL with fairly high draft stock, but went undrafted, and even failed to receive a work-out from any NFL teams preceding the weeks of the draft. He was signed by the Tennessee Titans' practice squad, but retired citing weak knees.