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December 7, 2001

by Bill Hogan



In the '60's, Dick Butkus was a quarterback's worst nightmare. In the '70's it was Mean Joe Green and in the '80's Lawrence Taylor was the menace du jour.

There's an off-the-field force that may be worse than the biggest, fastest, meanest defensive monster of the new millenium. One that should make any college quarterback dreaming of a NFL career wet himself.


The Heisman Trophy.

This year, there are four quarterbacks vying for the coveted award that recognizes the nation's best college football player.

These kids should do their homework and learn a little more about the history of the Heisman Trophy.

If they did, they would probably stay as far away from the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City as they can get.

I went down the list of past Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks. I had to go all the way back to 1963 to find one that actually went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL. (Give up? That would be Navy and Dallas Cowboy star Roger Staubach). That was thirty-eight years ago!

Since 1963, thirteen quarterbacks have been honored with the award. None are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. None are going to be. In fact, with the exception of Super Bowl XV MVP Jim Plunkett (and possibly the Jets' Vinny Testaverde and perennial underdog Doug Flutie) the group has been a NFL bust.

The Heisman quarterback class of 1970 is far and away the most prominent with Jim Plunkett (Heisman winner), Joe Theismann (runner-up) and Archie Manning (third) all going on to successful professional careers.

Although I have to question the lengths that Theismann (rhymes with Heisman) and the Notre Dame Sports Information Department went to while mounting their Heisman campaign. You see, up until his senior year, Joe's last name was pronounced Theesman. But Theesman doesn't rhyme with Heisman (pronounced Hys-man).

Are you familiar with Ed Marinaro, the popular star of the Emmy winning television series "Hill Street Blues"? I'm sure you are. Did you know that Marinaro was a star running back at Cornell University? He set a number of NCAA rushing records and was runner-up for the 1971 Heisman Trophy.

Are you familiar with Pat Sullivan? Didn't think so. A quarterback at Auburn University, Sullivan won the 1971 Heisman Trophy. I think he played a few forgetful years with the Atlanta Falcons.

You might think it was lucky that Marinaro didn't win the award that year, but running backs haven't experienced the kind of bad mugombo that has plagued Heisman winning quarterbacks.

Since Staubach in '63, eight Heisman Trophy running backs went on to stellar NFL careers and are current or future Pro Football Hall of Famers.

Andre Ware won the 1989 award. Ware is he now?

Ty Detmer had a brilliant college career at Brigham Young. He won the 1990 Heisman and just this year set a NFL record. He threw seven interceptions against the Cleveland Browns in the Detroit Lion's first of eleven straight losses this season.

Remember 1992 Heisman Trophy winner and U. of Miami quarterback Gino Torretta? Me neither.

Charlie Ward certainly had the right idea. Become an All-American quarterback at Florida State. Win the National Championship and the Orange Bowl MVP. Collect the 1993 Heisman Trophy.

Then go and play basketball for the New York Knicks.

The jury is still out on the 2000 winner - 29-year-old Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke (now with the Carolina Panthers). But it's a safe bet that he will be able to collect his 401k distribution without penalty before he makes any significant impact in the NFL.

Maybe Jay Berwanger was prophetic:

Berwanger was the first Heisman Trophy winner in 1935. At the University of Chicago, Berwanger did it all. He ran with the ball, he threw the ball, he caught and kicked the ball. He also played defense.

(His legend has grown so big over the years that there's a story circulating that, in one game, Berwanger threw the football, ran down field and caught it, then tackled himself).

He was the first player selected in the NFL's first-ever draft in 1936. Berwanger snubbed the professional ranks and opted, instead, for a very successful career in sales.

Do you think that maybe Berwanger knew something then that Huarte, Spurrier, Beban, Sullivan, Ware, Detmer, Torretta, Wuerffel, et. al. couldn't figure out years later?

If I were a college quarterback talented enough to be under consideration for the Heisman Trophy, I'd get down on my knees and thank my lucky stars.

Then pray like heck to the football gods that somebody else, anybody else, wins the award.


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