Even though Notre Dame has more Heisman winners than anyone in the country, it feels like the Irish should have a few more. Which former Irish players have been truly snubbed in the Heisman Trophy race?
Around this time every year, Notre Dame fans begin to convince themselves that the upcoming year’s team has the next Heisman winner. Notre Dame has had 7 Heisman winners and have come close to adding to that number numerous times. These guys came close but just missed the mark.
While Quinn finished 3rd in the 2006 Heisman Trophy race, he definitely had a case to win. In 2006, Quinn won the Maxwell Award. The Maxwell Award, much like the Heisman, is annually awarded to the nation’s best player. You may be thinking, “Yeah, so what?” Well, the man who won the Heisman (Troy Smith) was the quarter back at Ohio State. He did not win the Maxwell. Those awards almost always go hand-in-hand, so it raises quite an interesting question. How did Brady Quinn win the Maxwell Award and not the Heisman?
Bitterness regarding the various “Best Player” awards aside, Quinn also has the stats to prove he could’ve (should’ve) won the Heisman. No other Notre Dame quarterback has thrown for 3,000 yards in a season. Quinn did it in consecutive seasons. Quinn also threw a Notre Dame record 35 touchdown passes in the 2006 season. In comparison, Smith threw for 2,542 yards and 30 touchdown passes. It is worth mentioning Smith was also a threat on the ground, but much more so in 2005 than 2006. Smith ran for 400 fewer yards and 10 fewer touchdowns in his 2006 season.
Quinn’s other competitor in the 2006 Heisman race was Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. McFadden was the bright spot of a decent Arkansas team. Arkansas went 10-4 in 2006, including a loss in the Capital One Bowl to Wisconsin. McFadden had a great year for the Razorbacks, racking up 1,647 yards and 15 total touchdowns. He set a new Arkansas record for most rushing yards in a season, and was also a consensus All-American.
The possible nail in Quinn’s 2006 Heisman coffin was the loss to Troy Smith’s Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl the year before. Notre Dame lost to Ohio State 34-20. Quinn threw for 286 yards and no touchdowns. Smith threw for 342 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win.
Forget the whole “fake girlfriend” shenanigans. Manti Te’o was one of the best players Notre Dame football has ever seen and should’ve won the Heisman.
Te’o had one of the best defensive seasons college football has ever seen. No doubt about it. He racked up well over 100 tackles, coupled with 1.5 sacks and seven interceptions. Yes, you read that correctly; seven interceptions from a linebacker. Safeties and corners are lucky to get 7 interceptions in their entire college career.
However, as fans know all too well, the Heisman almost always goes to the best offensive player on the best team. Most often, it goes to a quarterback. In fact, the last defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy was Desmond Howard of Michigan in 1991. We are now coming up on nearly 30 years straight of offensive winners. Do better NCAA.
Bitterness aside, this article is in no way meant to slander Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy win. He had a great season. I do have my reservations though. Texas A&M went 11-2 and finished the season ranked fifth. Notre Dame went 12-0 and finished the season ranked first. Te’o brought Notre Dame football back to its glory days. Manziel got A&M to the Cotton Bowl.
Te’o’s accomplishments shouldn’t be taken lightly, either. When Notre Dame football is good, it’s better for college football. Te’o brought Notre Dame back to the National Championship, and gave Notre Dame fans an undefeated regular season.
While “Johnny Football” captivated many with his flashy moves and eccentric personality, it’s clear who was the best college football player in 2012.
Raghib “Rocket” Ismail
Admittedly, I may have reached a bit with Quinn and Te’o. However, there is little denying that Rocket should have won the 1990 Heisman Trophy. Instead, he came second to BYU’s Ty Detmer.
While Rocket’s stats from his listed position of wide receiver don’t pop off the page, he was much more than a wide receiver. Ismail racked up 33 receptions for 699 yards and 2 touchdowns in his 1990 campaign. That comes out to roughly 21 yards per catch. Rocket also was a factor on the ground for the Irish, as he tallied 537 yards on 67 carries and he scored 3 touchdowns.
Most fans remember Ismail for his electric returns, and rightfully so. Below, are his kick and punt return statistics. Ismail averaged 24 yards per kick return, scoring one touchdown, while he added an average of 11.6 yards per punt return.
Rocket was the type of player that gave defensive coordinator’s many sleepless nights. There was simply no game-plan for him and no way to work around him. Notre Dame was going to find a way to get him the ball. And once he had the ball, good luck stopping him.
The final 1990 Heisman vote tally had 316 first place votes for Detmer and 237 for Ismail. Overall, it was a very close race but one that probably should have tipped in Ismail’s favor, all things considered.