Ranking the Top 5 Heisman Trophy Classes Everrr!
The 2015 Heisman Trophy will be handed out Saturday, Dec. 12, and Alabama running back Derrick Henry happens to be the frontunner to win the award for the best player in college football. However, he’ll have a solid class of finalists surrounding him, that should include a group consisting of Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook, LSU RB Leonard Fournette, Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott and Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey.
But the question we want answered is where will this class rank among the top five Heisman classes in history? We really won’t know for a few years, as a player’s NFL career actually has some influence on our memories of past Heisman classes.
Top 5 Heisman Classes Everrr!
This is purely subjective, of course, just like the real Heisman voting! We take in the top five finalists in voting, and consider both their college and professional careers, as well as their impact on the game and their schools.
No. 1 -- 1982 Heisman Trophy Class
Winner: Herschel Walker, RB, Georgia
- John Elway, QB, Stanford
- Eric Dickerson, RB, SMU
- Anthony Carter, WR, Michigan
- David Rimington, C, Nebraska
Somewhere out there, Rimington is telling his family, friends and anyone that would listen that a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, a stud NFL wide receiver and two world-class running backs were the only things keeping him from winning the 1982 Heisman as an offensive lineman. Rimington does have the honor, however, of having his name go on the yearly award for the best college center every season (Rimington Award).
Meanwhile, Walker is considered one of the best college football players (not just running backs) of all time. Elway won a couple Super Bowls and Dickerson holds the NFL record for most rushing yards in a single season.
— Ty Wilson (@_LifeOfTy_) December 2, 2015
No. 2 – 1997 Heisman Trophy Class
Winner: Charles Woodson, CB, Michigan
- Peyton Manning, QB, Tennessee
- Ryan Leaf, QB, Washington State
- Randy Moss, WR, Marshall
- Ricky Williams, RB, Texas
The first defensive player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, Woodson really was in a class by himself defensively that season for Big Blue. But let’s be honest here – this was highway robbery. Manning had four amazing seasons with the Volunteers, but he was penalized for never having beaten the Florida Gators or winning a national championship. He would then go on to break pretty much every NFL passing record after being stiff-armed by Heisman voters.
Leaf became an NFL trivia answer, but those other two guys were pretty darn good.
Moss led the NFL with 17 touchdown catches in his 1998 rookie season, and the Saints traded their entire draft for a chance to watch Ricky run. Unfortunately, it took him moving to South Florida before we truly got to see what kind of NFL talent he really was. Sure, he was a space cadet, but he was a beast of a back that had very few peers when he was running for the burnt orange and white in Austin.
No. 3 – 1981 Heisman Trophy Class
Winner: Marcus Allen, RB, USC
- Herschel Walker, RB, Georgia
- Jim McMahon, QB, BYU
- Dan Marino, QB, Pittsburgh
- Art Schlichter, QB, Ohio State
One could easily make the argument that this class is better than the first two we mentioned, especially considering the presence of a sophomore Walker. Allen continue the long line of Heisman winning RBs out of Southern Cal (they used to call it that back then), and his pro career could have given him the best numbers of any NFL running back ever. Unfortunately, Al Davis drafted him and once Allen got in his doghouse, he never got out, and he had to compete with Bo Jackson and Harvey Williams just eight years into his career.
McMahon won a Super Bowl, which eluded Marino, who finished as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. I wonder if Schlichter would have bet on Marino going ring-less?
No. 4 – 1956 Heisman Trophy Class
Winner: Paul Hornung, QB, Notre Dame
- John Majors, RB, Tennessee
- Tommy McDonald, RB, Oklahoma
- Jerry Tubbs, LB, Oklahoma
- Jim Brown, RB, Syracuse
It’s tough for me to rank this much higher, knowing that obviously race-influenced voters didn’t even have Brown second behind Hornung.
The Golden Domer is the only Heisman Trophy winner to take home the hardware despite being on a losing team. He would go on to star for Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, but we won’t forgive him for stealing this award from Brown.
The 5 players (all RBs) to win Heisman AND NFL MVP: Paul Hornung, OJ Simpson, Earl Campbell, Marcus Allen, & Barry Sanders
— Racial Dolezal (@SirCoach) November 23, 2015
Meanwhile, Johnny Majors would go on to be a legendary head coach in Knoxville, and McDonald would go on to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, as a wide receiver after 12 years with five NFL teams.
No. 5 – 1970 Heisman Trophy Class
Winner: Jim Plunkett, QB, Stanford
- Joe Theisman, QB, Notre Dame
- Archie Manning, QB, New Orleans
- Steve Worster, QB, Texas
- Rex Kern, QB, Ohio State
While Plunkett did go on to win a Super Bowl with the Raiders, the road to get there was a long one after he was drafted by the New England Patriots with the first overall pick in 1971. (He is one of just two players to have won the Heisman Trophy, be selected first overall and win Super Bowl MVP in his career, along with John Elway.)
Theisman, whose name was changed in a votting campaign to sound like Heisman, was also a Super Bowl winner, and while Archie Manning never made it to the big game, he did get inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989. (Interestingly, Manning’s 35-101-3 record in the NFL is the worst winning percentage of any QB with at least 100 starts.) The fellas has Hall-of-Fame sperm though!
— The Game (@TheGameWDGM) December 1, 2015
Whether you agree with the placement of our Heisman class rankings or not, I’m sure you can agree that it will take a special group of amateur players to knock off any of these groups from this top five list.
Photo Credit: Alex Goodlett, Getty Images
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