Heisman Trophy Winners: History, Trivia Includes Bad Luck

The deadline for the Heisman Trophy ballots is December 5, and the 2016 Heisman finalists will be announced.

Each year, college football sports enthusiasts climb over mounds of statistics to see if their predictions for the Heisman Trophy will come true, and the 2016 Heisman watch is no different. The annual anticipation helps sports fans figure out which football players are in the top 20 and ready to graduate into the NFL.

Needless to say, in its eight decades of history, the Heisman Trophy has had a weird sports trivia angle more than a few times. The story of the Heisman Trophy begins with the Downtown Athletic Club in NYC.

Regardless of their former power, on their website, you soon learn that this NYC athletic club is not interested in being the sole judges for the Heisman Trophy.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: The Heisman Trophy sits on a stand before a press conference at the New York Marriott Marquis on December 13, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Instead, the organization behind the Heisman Trophy have a history of using sports journalists to judge the winners. Today, the selection process for the Heisman Trophy places clout in an online voting system and a system of regional captains. They also have the Deloitte accounting firm doing the tabulation.

While some Heisman Trophy history makes a lot of sense, others does not. For example, Peyton Manning has obviously carried the Indianapolis Colts into the winner’s circle, but he was not always lucky when it came to the Heisman Trophy.

As the SEC Sports Fan explains in a blog post, in 1997, when Peyton Manning was a quarterback for the University of Tennessee Volunteers, he was passed over for the Heisman Trophy and it felt like a curse since this happened to many players from UT. Instead of Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson of Packers and Raiders fame became the Heisman Trophy winner and he had a strong career of his own.

As a Heisman winner, Charles Woodson was very lucky, and he was noted by ESPN in 2011 to be “the only Heisman winner to ever intercept a pass by a fellow Heisman winner in the NFL.” Strangely, Charles Woodson has accomplished this feat four times with Heisman Trophy winners Cam Newton, Vinny Testaverde, Matt Leinart, and Carson Palmer.

Sometimes, the Heisman Trophy is not as good of luck as expected. Once recruited by the MLB for the Cincinnati Reds and the Detroit Tigers, one high school baseball whiz kid was convinced by a businessman to choose the Ohio State Buckeyes instead.

In the NY Times obituary for Vic Janowicz, you learn that in 1950 he was the third junior in the history of the Heisman Trophy to win the award. Despite this good luck, the tables were about to turn for this football player.

After college, Vic Janowicz went back to his passion for baseball and played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for two seasons. Later, he decided he was more successful at football and started with the Washington Redskins.

Unfortunately, in 1956, about six years after winning the Heisman Trophy, Vic Janowicz was in a terrible car accident. While he never went back to baseball or football, he did have a full recovery of partial paralysis and worked as a sports commentator.

In the history of the Heisman Trophy, only one has been requested to be returned. In June 2010, NBC Sports writes that it was determined that Miami Dolphins player Reggie Bush should lose his 2005 Heisman Trophy.

Sadly, according to ESPN, Bush’s only accused crime was that he accepted cash benefits while he was with the University of Southern California Trojans. Although all college students could use more money, Heisman Trophy recipients are banned from accepting certain forms of athletic sponsorship.

Oakland Raiders legend Charles Woodson
Charles Woodson [Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images]

As if that was not strange enough, the aftermath of this Heisman Trophy was a mystery for several years. After the Heisman Foundation asked to have it back in 2010, it wound up in the hands of a sports museum in San Diego, according to CBS Local Chicago.

The trophy was allegedly given to Bush’s family. However, as of late 2011, the trophy was still missing in action. In 2013, Washington Post reported the following about the most status of Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy.

“The Trust no longer acknowledges Bush as a Heisman winner and is secretive about the trophy’s location. Heisman Trophy coordinator Tim Henning said the trophy has neither been destroyed nor reissued — rather, it’s in a storage unit in the New York City area, alongside portraits and valuables the Trust no longer had room for when it moved from the Downtown Athletic Club.”

After the Heisman Trophy 2016 finalists are announced on December 5, the next event will be the Annual Heisman Dinner Gala on December 12.

[Featured Image by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images]