Is there any reason why former Boynton Beach High School star Lamar Jackson can’t win his second consecutive Heisman Trophy in 2017?
Well, actually, I can think of about 13.
That’s how many Heisman winners returned to school to try to win it again but came up short. We’re not talking about juniors who left early to play pro ball, just underclassmen who had another crack at it.
Billy Sims of Oklahoma came the closest. He finished second to Charles White in the 1979 Heisman voting after winning the trophy in 1978.
Here’s the list, with the years each guy won it and where he finished in the voting thereafter.
Doc Blanchard (Jr.) 1945 – 5th in 1946
Doak Walker (Jr.) 1948 – 3rd in 1949
Vic Janowicz (Jr.) 1950 – Not a finalist in 1951
Roger Staubach (Jr.) 1963 – Not a finalist in 1964
Billy Sims (Jr.) 1978 – 2nd in 1979
Ty Detmer (Jr.) 1990 – 3rd in 1991
Jason White (Jr.) 2003 – 3rd in 2004
Matt Leinart (Jr.) 2004 – 3rd in 2005
Tim Tebow (So.) 2007 – 3rd in 2008, 5th in 2009
Sam Bradford (So.) 2008 – Not a finalist in 2009, left early
Mark Ingram (So.) 2009 – Not a finalist in 2010, left early
Johnny Manziel (Fr.) 2012 – 5th in 2013, left early
Jameis Winston (Fr.) 2013 – 6th in 2014, left early
Now, of course, injuries got in the way with some of these guys. Other times, especially in recent years, Heisman winners like Bradford and Winston and Manziel gave up a couple of years of college eligibility to enter the NFL draft early. Always, voters are looking for a new name to follow, a new legend to write, and that also plays into this.
There are some great names, too, who won the Heisman as juniors and didn’t return to school, superstars like Herschel Walker and Barry Sanders and Cam Newton.
Frankly, it always amazes me that Griffin won a couple. His senior year was nowhere close to the dominance of his first Heisman season.
His touchdowns went down from 12 in 1974 to four during his senior season of 1975. His rushing average dropped from 6.6 yards per carry to 5.5. His rushing total also slipped slightly from 1,695 to 1,450.
These are super numbers, but Chuck Muncie, Ricky Bell and Tony Dorsett all outgained Griffin on the ground in 1975. They all rushed for 13 touchdowns, too.
Overall, Jackson and Louisville will have to improve on last year’s 9-4 record if he’s going to have a chance at a second Heisman. He’ll have to beat Florida State and defending national champion Clemson and keep going from there. That’s asking as much as anyone ever has of a returning Heisman winner.
Tebow had some advice for Jackson at last year’s Heisman ceremony, and he shared it recently with the Sporting News.
“Know going into the season it’s going to be harder,” Tebow said. “The other teams; they don’t care if the other guys get the big plays. Their game plan will be to stop you and shut you down. Focus on getting your teammates involved, and that’s also going to help you. It can’t be on the numbers, it’s got to be on, ‘Did I do my job every single play?'”
Good luck to Lamar. He has the maturity to process that information and the courage to accept the challenge. The temptation is to chase stats, and that really isn’t the fault of players. Heisman voters and ESPN talking heads and dopey newspaper columnists lean on those flashy touchdown numbers way too much.