UPDATED: 8:25 p.m. ET, Jan. 5, 2021 —
Have you ever wondered how many Black Heisman trophy winners there are? Well, the NewsOne Team searched the web and couldn’t find a list. So we made one for you! Officially, there are 35. Unofficially, there are 34. (Reggie Bush of USC forfeited his 2005 trophy in 2010). Eight Heisman trophies went to Black players in the 1980s alone.
Twenty-two were running backs, seven were quarterbacks and three were wide receivers, including the University of Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, who on Tuesday night became the most recent winner of the coveted award. Smith is the first running back to win the Heisman award in nearly 30 years, back when Desmond Howard of the University of Michigan won for the 1991 season.
There has also been one defensive back who’s won a Heisman.
USC has produced the most Black Heisman trophy winners with five, all of whom were running backs.
Keep reading to find a full list of Black players who took home college football’s highest honor.
1961: Ernie Davis, Running Back
The first African American Heisman Trophy winner in 1961, Davis paved the way for a generation of black Heisman hopefuls to come. He was selected as the first overall draft pick in the 1962 NFL draft, the first African American to be so honored. Tragically, he was diagnosed acute monocytic leukemia in the summer of 1962 and died in May of 1963 at age 23. Davis never played a down of NFL football.
1965: Mike Garrett, Running Back
Garrett won the Heisman in 1965 as a tailback with USC. From 1993-2010, he was USC’s athletic director.
1968: O.J. Simpson, Running Back
“The Juice,” as he was so affectionately nicknamed, was perhaps the first celebrity African American Heisman winner. He won the award in 1968 after his senior year at the University of Southern California. O.J. went on to have a Hall Of Fame career in the NFL and became one of the most recognized and marketable professional athletes of his era.
1972: Johnny Rodgers, Wingback/Running back
Rodgers won the Heisman back in 1972 at the University of Nebraska. He played wingback, which is a player on the field who can line up as a receiver or take hand-offs as a running back. He was convicted of grand larceny in 1971 for robbing a gas station. Rodgers is the only Heisman winner to have been convicted of a felony before receiving the award.
1974 and 1975: Archie Griffin, Running Back
Griffin was the first player ever to start in four Rose Bowls and is college football’s only two-time Heisman Trophy winner. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1976 N.F.L. draft with the 24th overall pick but did not duplicate his college success at the next level.
1976: Tony Dorsett, Running Back
Dorsett became an All-American running back during his freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh. He capped off his stellar college career with an N.C.A.A. Championship and Heisman trophy in 1976. Dorsett went on to have an extra-ordinary career with the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos. He was enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1994.
1977: Earl Campbell, Running Back
The University of Texas star won the Heisman Trophy in 1977 and went on be considered one of the most bruising running backs in the history of the NFL He was enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1991.
1978: Billy Sims, Running Back
A running back at Oklahoma, Sims won the award in 1978.
1979: Charles White, Running Back
Another USC running back great, White won the Heisman back in 1979.
1980: George Rogers, Running Back
Rogers won the Heisman in 1980 as a star running back for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
1981: Marcus Allen, Running Back
Another one of those great USC running backs who went on to the NFL to have a Hall of Fame career.
1982: Herschel Walker, Running Back
The former running back at the University of Georgia won the Heisman in 1982. He went to play for several NFL teams to rack up 8,225 rushing yards, 4,859 receiving yards, and 5,084 kickoff-return yards in 12 seasons. He also has 84 touchdowns: 61 rushing, 21 receiving and two kick off returns for touchdowns.
1983: Mike Rozier, Running Back
A running back at Nebraska, Rozier won the Heisman in 1983.
1985: Bo Jackson, Running Back
One of the greatest athletes ever, Jackson won the Heisman in 1985. His career was cut short due to injures. But even during his short N.F.L. career, Jackson showed all of the indicators he ready for greatness. He played professional baseball when he wasn’t running over linebackers.
1987: Tim Brown, Wide Receiver
Tim Brown was the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy. The Notre Dame standout electrified almost every game he played in and took his skills to the next level where he spent 16 years building a Hall of Fame NFL career.
1988: Barry Sanders, Running Back
There are few college Heisman Trophy winners who can say their professional careers were superior to their college days. Barry Sanders is one of the few who can. The ease with which Sanders juked his opponents at the college level was eye dropping enough. But when he joined the Detroit Lions, he seemed to get even more freakishly insane with his angle-breaking moves. Check out the video below if you’re feeling nostalgic for old number 20.
1989: Andre Ware, Quarterback
Ware was the first black quarterback to win the Heisman trophy in 1989. As a junior at the University of Houston, he threw for 4,699 yards, 44 touchdowns, and set 26 NCAA records. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions but washed out at the professional level.
1991: Desmond Howard, Wide Receiver
Howard, known for the iconic Heisman pose in the endzone during the 1991 Michigan-Ohio State game, brought a dignity and class to the award that sets the standard that every Heisman alum should strive for. Though he did not have a Hall Of Fame career in the NFL, he did have his moments. He led the NFL in punt returns, punt return yards and punt return average and touchdowns during the 1996 season.
1993: Charlie Ward, Quarterback
The former Florida State Seminole had a flair about him that had his fans praying he’d take his quarterbacking skills to the next level. He opted for a basketball career instead. His NBA career was a successful one.
1994: Rashaan Salaam, Running Back
Saleem enjoyed one of the best college careers as a running back ever rushing for more than 2,000 years at the University of Colorado and winning the Heisman Trophy in 1994. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1995 and ran for 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns. during his rookie campaign. But injuries ended his career early and he never met up to the high expectations placed upon him.
1995: Eddie George, Running Back
A Heisman Trophy winner in 1995 at Ohio State University, George went on to have an excellent professional career with the Tennessee Titans before injures ended it early. His numbers-10,441 rushing yards, 268 receptions, 2,227 receiving yards, and 78 touchdowns (68 rushing and ten receiving)-are arguably Hall of Fame-worthy.
1997: Charles Woodson, Defensive Back
The only defensive player to win the Heisman, the Michigan Wolverine showed that defensive prowess is as critical to team success as great quarterbacking. And Woodson didn’t disappoint us when he got to the NFL, either. He is still a shutdown cornerback who should make the Hall of Fame soon after he hangs up his jersey in Green Bay.
1998: Ricky Williams, Running Back
The University of Texas star is perhaps better known for his wedding dress cover on Sports Illustrated than for his prowess on the football field. His on-again, off-again football career was dogged with drug use and mental health issues.
1999: Ron Dayne, Running Back
The former Badger holds the N.C.A.A. record for career rushing yards. He is currently a free agent in the NFL and has enjoyed a successful, but not a star-studded career.
2005: Reggie Bush, Running Back *
Easily the most electrifying running back of the past ten years, the USC running back ripped apart the best defenses in college football. While the N.C.A.A. may have wiped Bush’s name off of the record books, YouTube will keep his ESPN highlight performances etched in our memories for years to come. Officially, Bush is off of the record books as a Heisman winner because he forfeited his trophy in 2010 amid mounting allegations he accepted favors while at USC.
2006: Troy Smith, Quarterback
One of the few black quarterbacks to win the award, Smith led the Buckeyes to the N.C.A.A. National Championship game in 2006. But he was another college star who could not duplicate his success at the professional level. He played with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.
2009: Mark Ingram, Running Back
Ingram, who won the Heisman as a sophomore running back in 2009, set the Crimson Tide’s single-season rushing record with 1,658 yards and was voted to the AP All-America first-team. He helped Alabama win the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. He played with the New Orleans Saints.
2010: Cam Newton, Quarterback
He was the guy many in the mainstream media wanted to hate. The Heisman everyone thought would surely bust as soon as he pulled an N.F.L. jersey over his shoulder pads. Well, the first-year quarterback led the Carolina Panthers as well as any veteran could and is currently signed to the New England Patriots.
2011: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback
The quarterback from Baylor won the Heisman trophy on December 10th, 2011, becoming the school’s first winner ever.
2013: Jamies Winston, Quarterback
Florida State University
The then-19-year-old redshirt freshman quarterback became the youngest player and first player from the ACC in 13 years to win the coveted Heisman trophy.
2015: Derrick Henry, running back
University of Alabama
Derrick Henry set the SEC single-season rushing record and tied the conference mark for rushing touchdowns with 23 on his way to winning Alabama’s second Heisman trophy award.
2016: Lamar Jackson, Quarterback
University of Louisville
Jackson made history when he became the youngest person ever to receive the Heisman Trophy. The 19-year-old college football player received the 82nd award for an outstanding sophomore season with the Cardinals. Jackson had 3,390 passing yards, scored 30 touchdowns and had 9 interceptions. He led the team to a 9-3 record and received 526 first-place votes for the award.
2018: Kyler Murray, Quarterback
University of Oklahoma
Murray threw for 4,053 yards with 40 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions while leading the Sooners to a 12-1 record and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
2020: DeVonta Smith
University of Alabama
Smith, a senior, had a monster year with 1,511 receiving yards and 17 touchdown catches, even though he was not the team’s focal point until mid-season.