The 15 Worst Heisman Winners Of All Time

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15 Worst Heisman Trophy Winners Of All Time

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Heisman Trophy is the most prestigious individual recognition that any collegiate athlete could ever be awarded. There is always a raging debate over Heisman winners every single year, but it generally takes several years to truly determine who the most deserving candidates really were. The most common barometer for Heisman worthiness comes in the evaluation the of Heisman winner's career in professional football, and obviously some Heisman winners are revealed to be more deserving than others over time.

Whenever a collegiate athlete achieves an exceptional level of success, the performance expectations for that athlete at the professional level go through the roof. Generally, any athlete that gets acknowledged as the best of the best in college will have no shortage of fans expecting them to be a game-changer when they debut with their pro team.

Winning the Heisman Trophy is an achievement that every football player dreams about, because most winners of the award are treated like royalty for the rest of their lives. On the flip side, no other award brings with it the level of harsh criticism associated with being labeled an “NFL Draft bust.” Lack of success at the professional level is magnified exponentially for Heisman winners, and a less-than-impressive pro career will undoubtedly follow those athletes for the rest of their lives also.

Unfortunately, for the unlucky Heisman Winners who disappointed at the professional level, it never gets old for critics to remind them of their failures. Many Heisman Trophy winners had less-than-impressive careers in professional football, but here is a list of the 10 worst Heisman winners of all time.

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15. Reggie Bush

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Reggie Bush appears on this list for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Bush never quite lived up to the hype generated by his playing ability that followed him from college into the NFL. Secondly, Bush had his Heisman Trophy win vacated by the Heisman Trust in 2010 for violations committed by the USC Football Program. Vince Young and Bush's teammate, Matt Leinart, were also amongst the Heisman Finalist that year, and Young led the Texas Longhorns to a victory over Bush, Leinart and the USC Trojans in the National Championship game shortly after Bush won the Heisman.

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14. Matt Leinart

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USA Today Sports

Matt Leinart was clearly the product of lots of talent around him at USC. He was never a great passer and once the game evolved around him in the NFL, he just couldn't hang.

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13. Andre Ware


Ware had one monster season at Houston that earned him the Heisman in 1989. Before and after that, he was just another guy.

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12. Eric Crouch


Crouch was definitely a product of the Nebraska option system back in the late 90s and early 2000s. He could run better than he could throw. In fact, he never even threw for 1,600 yards in a single season in college.

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11. Chris Weinke


Weinke had a couple of good seasons in 1999 and 2000. He tossed his way to the Heisman, but let's face it, he was not that great of a quarterback in the scheme of things.

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10. Troy Smith


Troy Smith led the Ohio State Buckeyes to a blowout loss in the BCS title game back in 2006. He had a good year, but he ultimately proved to be no good. Now, he plays in the CFL.

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9. Ty Detmer

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Ty Detmer was an accomplished quarterback for the BYU Cougars. Unfortunately, having a collegiate career that helped Detmer get awarded the most prestigious individual award in sports led him to be drafted in the ninth round of the 1992 NFL Draft. If Detmer were a current prospect, he would go undrafted. Even though Detmer's draft stock dropped below Heisman-level, he managed to hang around in the NFL for 13 seasons as a career backup.

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8. Gino Torretta

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Gino Torretta was a seventh-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings and spent only five seasons on an NFL roster. Torretta played for five different franchises, and served in a backup role at every stop. Torretta won the Heisman in 1992 and was a member of the Miami Hurricanes' 1989 and 1991 National Championship teams. The Hurricanes were dominated by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 1993 Sugar Bowl in a game that decided the National Champion.

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7. Mark Ingram

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Mark Ingram is the only Heisman winner in the history of Alabama Crimson Tide football. Unfortunately, that distinction has not translated to success at the NFL level, as Ingram has struggled to earn consistent playing time for the Saints. It is still early in Ingram's career, and he definitely has time to reverse his fortunes. As of now, Ingram appears to be a Heisman selection that the Heisman trust would like to do over.

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6. Tim Tebow

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Tim Tebow is and always will be a Florida Gator legend, but his collegiate success has not translated to the NFL. Tebow was selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, led the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011 and was promptly released by the team when Peyton Manning signed with Denver in 2012. Since being forced out of Denver, Tebow spent a disastrous season with the New York Jets in 2012 and watched the current NFL campaign from the free agent pool.

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5. Ron Dayne

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Ron Dayne set the NCAA record for rushing yards during a career as he started all four seasons with the Wisconsin Badgers. Dayne played and lost in the Super Bowl with the Giants during his rookie season, but his career went downhill from there. He played seven seasons in the NFL, but his success in college makes his NFL career look like a major disappointment. Dayne deserved to win the Heisman, but his unwillingness to lose weight in the NFL and lack of production make him a bad choice.

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4. Danny Wuerffel

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Danny Wuerffel is another Florida Gator quarterback to win the Heisman and subsequently disappoint at the NFL level. He played just five seasons in the NFL for four different franchises. Wuerffel spent part of the 2000 season in NFL Europe with the Rhein Fire. Wuerffel last played in 2002 for the Washington Redskins, falling short of the expectations placed on Heisman-winning quarterbacks.

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3. Jason White

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Jason White was a Heisman winner in 2003 for Oklahoma and collected numerous accolades over his college career, but never got a change to play a single snap in the NFL. Multiple ACL tears had taken their toll on his knees by the time his pro career was due to start as White became the third Heisman winner that went undrafted in the NFL -- thus making him one of the most deserving names on this list.

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2. Rashaan Salaam

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Rashaan Salaam makes this list due to his issues with injuries and marijuana use a the NFL level that contributed to him only playing two seasons with the Chicago Bears. The Bears used the 21st pick on Salaam, and he rushed for over 1,000 rushing yards in his rookie season, but ended his career with only 1,684 rushing yards. Salaam spent time in the short-lived XFL football experiment, and should be regarded as one of the worst Heisman selections ever due to his off-field troubles that shortened his NFL playing career.

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1. Johnny Manziel

Johnny Football
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Johnny Manziel mesmerized the nation with his stellar play as a freshman quarterback for the Texas A&M Aggies, but don't expect a Hall of Fame career form Manziel in the NFL. Johnny Football's infatuation with scrambling will lead to an injury-plagued experience in the NFL. That's if he has the ability to supplant any one of the starting quarterbacks currently on an NFL roster.

Around the Web

  • Chris Farlee

    If Russell Wilson can do it, can’t Manziel?

    • Michael

      The difference is Russell Wilson rolls out, not scrambling down the field taking hits. A better comparison would be RG3 to Manziel.

  • NCBrian

    I know throwing him in there was just an attempt at trolling but on what planet is Johnny Manziel even one of the worst Heisman Winners of all time let alone THE worst. Come on now, that’s absurd.

    It doesn’t even make sense within the context you established at the start of the article…
    If your metric is how they perform in the NFL how is Manziel on this list but Charlie Ward isn’t?

  • Bob

    Oh, this isn’t a list of the worst heisman winners, it’s a list of winners that specifically didn’t make it in the NFL. Where is Eric Crouch? ALL of these players were worthy of the award – IN COLLEGE. And this is a COLLEGE AWARD, not a ‘who will make it in the NFL award’.

  • Thomas Paine

    I’m surprised he left Charlie Ward off the list. Ward was listed at 6’2″, but was really more like 5’11″. He knew he didn’t have the physique to make it in the pros even though he was as good a scrambler as ever played the college game. He told them not to bother drafting him if he wasn’t taken in the first round. Instead, he opted for pro basketball and had a good career in the NBA.

  • Mo

    This list is dumb. The Heisman has nothing to do w/ success in the NFL.

  • thaddeusbuttmunchmd

    ..and Steroidhead Mandaritch was a STAR at MSU and quickly washed out in the NFL

  • mrsir

    so, in your opinion, ALL of the 15 worst Heisman winners have played after 1990? Either you are very young and very stupid, or very old and very stupid. Either way, you should be fired because you are obviously very lazy.