Heisman Curse: Myth or Fact?

Javier ZavaletaContributor IFebruary 27, 2010

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12:  The Heisman trophy awarded to Running back Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at a press conference after he was named the 75th Heisman Trophy winner at the Marriott Marquis on December 12, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Anyone who watches college football and the NFL have a good idea of "The Heisman Curse." I don't mean the one that states the Heisman winner loses the Title game following the ceremony. I'm talking about the idea that a Heisman winner in college will, at the next level, suffer an injury, get lost in the depth chart or never live up to the hype.

There are a few of theories as to why Heisman winners may seem to not succeed in the NFL. A prevalent one (that we like to think of) is that the Heisman winner is no longer the center of attention, and lets his ego get in the way of his performance.

Another idea that we like is that the player collapses under the expectations and the pressure to be the greatest NFL player ever like he was the greatest player for that one (or in Archie Griffin's case, two) year(s) of college.

Another interesting one is that there is some sort of "hex" that Heisman players meet a career-ending injury before they can fully blossom. And then, there is the all-time greatest reason to why someone doesn't succeed in the pros, "he was undersized for his position."

I've looked at each Heisman Winner since 1961 (Ernie Davis), mostly because Terry Baker, the Heisman after Ernie, was considered the first Heisman Draft Bust. Here's a stat sheet for you to see how NCAA's finest fared in the next level.

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Since 1961, 

Six of 45 Heisman Winners have gone to the NFL Hall of Fame

24 of 45 (53 Percent) HW's have never been to a Pro Bowl

10 of 45 (22 percent) have been chosen as No.1 draft picks, only two of those draft picks went to the Hall of Fame

Hall of Famers

  • 1988: Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State)
  • 1981: Marcus Allen (USC)
  • 1977: Earl Campbell (Texas)
  • 1976: Tony Dorsett (Pitt)
  • 1968: O.J. Simpson (USC)
  • 1963: Roger Staubach (Navy)

Just Pro Bowlers
  • 2002: Carson Palmer (USC)
  • 1998: Ricky Williams (Texas)
  • 1997: Charles Woodson (Michigan)
  • 1995: Eddie George (Ohio State)
  • 1991: Desmond Howard (Michigan)
  • 1987: Tim Brown (Notre Dame)
  • 1985: Bo Jackson (Auburn)
  • 1984: Doug Flutie (Boston College)
  • 1983: Mike Rozier (Nebraska)
  • 1982: Herschel Walker (Georgia)
  • 1980: George Rogers (South Carolina)
  • 1979: Charles White (USC)
  • 1978: Billy Sims (Oklahoma)
  • 1969: Steve Owens (Oklahoma)
  • 1967: Gary Beban (UCLA)

Caught in unusual circumstances other than enduring injuries
  • 2008: Sam Bradford (Oklahoma)—two shoulder injuries in the 2009 NCAA season
  • 1998: Ricky Williams (Texas)—Drug Problems
  • 1993: Charlie Ward (Florida State)—Drafted by the NBA
  • 1985: Bo Jackson (Auburn)—Career ending injury his fourth season
  • 1979: Billy Sims (Oklahoma)—Career ending injury his fifth season
  • 1972 : Johnny Rodgers (Nebraska)—Career ending injury (during practice) in second NFL season
  • 1961: Ernie Davis (Syracuse)—Diagnosed with Leukemia before rookie season, died 1963.

Just so you know, I consider the Heisman to be the most prestigious award ever to be given to a QB/RB/WR/PR, especially more prestigious than being the first overall draft pick. I consider it second to a NCAA National Title. No player who has won the Heisman should ever consider it a bad omen to their future, because even if they do fail in the Pros that player's name can never have his name wiped off.
But still, it's seems ironic that those that do great in college have just as much risk to do nothing in the Pros just as any other Draft Pick. Strange?


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