The winner of the 2011 Heisman Trophy will be presented tonight. It’s gearing up to be a pretty close race. This prestigious honor is given to college football’s best player. For one lucky young man, it could be the springboard to NFL superstardom. But for some, superstardom is not easy to come by. We take a look at the most recent, relevant Heisman trophy winners. Does college football’s top honor translate to NFL stud?
In 2002, Carson Palmer won and went on to be the number 1 pick in the draft that year for the Cincinnati Bengals. He was going to take the Bengals to the next level and he almost did. He sat on the bench for a couple of seasons until his time came. When it did, Palmer didn’t disappoint. He single-handedly helped turn that cellar dwelling franchise into a dark horse Super Bowl contender. But right when the Bengals were going to take the league by storm with Palmer leading the way, he was knocked out of a playoff game with the rival Steelers, which led to the Bengals getting knocked out of the playoffs and out of Super Bowl contention. Palmer and the Bengals were never able to get back to that level again, and he eventually decided to “retire” until he got his wish to be traded. Now, Palmer is trying to lead the Raiders back to a winning tradition. The jury is still out on Palmer.
Though the Heisman folks no longer acknowledge 2005 winner Reggie Bush, he still was the best college player of that year. Bush went on to be drafted by the New Orleans Saints. He certainly had an impact on the success of the Saints. They made it deep into the playoffs his rookie season and they eventually won a Super Bowl. However, Bush never became that every down between the tackles workhorse that he claimed that he could be. That’s just not his game. He eventually became expendable in the NO, and landed with the Dolphins. Now Bush is running free in Miami, and helping them as they make a playoff run. The Dolphins may not make the playoffs, but Bush has shown that he can positively help a NFL team. If he can stay healthy (the big issue here), he should have a successful career.
2007 Heisman Winner Tim Tebow not only won the Heisman as a college sophomore, he also won two National Championships at the University of Florida. Though he had a stellar college career, there was much debate about whether Tebow could be a successful NFL QB. There were rumblings of him becoming a tight end or a fullback, but Tebow was having none of that. The Denver Broncos made a huge gamble drafting Tebow with a first round pick. He still has not been embraced as the QB of the future, but Tebow is turning a lot of heads in the league and is going on a rampage this season. As a Tebow fantasy owner, I hope he keeps it up. He may not be the traditional QB, but the NFL is no longer the traditional league it once was. The man is proving he can win at the next level and should continue to get the chance to do so.
After winning the Heisman in 2008 (also as a sophomore), Sam Bradford has experienced a lot of highs and lows over the course of playing college football and going into the NFL. First, there was the major “shoulder injury” that we thought would scare off everyone, but Bradford became the first overall pick of 2010 draft going to the St. Louis Rams. He got his first victory as a starting NFL QB against the (ahem) Redskins, and then never looked back! He got his mojo and started breaking a variety of records for TDs and yards by a rookie. He brought the Rams very close to bringing the Rams back to the playoffs last season. Bradford went on to win the 2010 offensive rookie of the year award. This season on the other hand, Bradford and the Rams have NOT been as successful. Bradford has gone 1-8 as a starter this year and now is out with an ankle injury. Certainly a bit of a sophomore slump. Hopefully there is better luck next year.
Mark Ingram won the Heisman in 2009 and entered the draft in 2010. He was scooped up by offensive genius Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints. With the drafting of Ingram, came the ousting of the high profile, disgraced Heisman winner-Reggie Bush. In fact, you may recall Reggie tweeted the famous “It’s been real New Orleans” after the draft selection was made. Well Ingram is not who really replaced Reggie Bush, the replacement was actually Daren Sproles. Mark Ingram has been used a bit less than I expected ( I have the few fantasy points to prove it). This does not have as much to do with Mark Ingram as it does with Sean Payton’s system. Ingram is the Saints “leading rusher” with a whopping 474 yards and 5 TDs this year. Please note that ALL 3 of the Saints running backs have just over 400 rushing yards this season. That being said, Ingram is in the a great system where he can continue to learn and grow as a NFL player. Clearly he is not lighting the world on fire yet.
So much attention has been giving to Tim Tebow that people are kind of forgetting about the most exciting rookie and Heisman winner playing in the NFL today: 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton! I think everyone would say Cam’s start has been incredible! After winning the Heisman (and a National title), Cam was drafted number 1 overall by the Carolina Panthers. Cam was drafted with the NFL still locked out. With a shortened off season, Cam has shown and proved week after week! Not only is he throwing awesome (Fantasy Footballers thank you for what you’ve done for Steve Smith Cam), the man is rushing awesome! The Carolina Panthers just spent a lot of money taking care of RB DeAngelo Williams. While Williams ( with only 569 rushing yards and 7 TDs) has not lived up to the new contract, Cam has not really made it an issue! In addition to throwing for 3, 297 yards and 13 TDs, Cam has rushed for 513 yards and 5 TDs! For those “winning is the bottom line” types, Cam has not completely turned around the record of the Panthers as they have only won 4 games this year. Cam has been very Superman like on the field, but he cannot play on both sides of the ball! This kid is a STUD and with more off season improvements by the Panthers and more time this year to prepare, I think Cam will be even more outstanding next year!
Congratulations and best wishes to this year’s Heisman finalists: Montee Ball, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Tryann Mathieu, and Trent Richardson. http://www.heisman.com/index.php