Heisman Trophy Winners: No Guaranteed Success to Canton

Heisman Trophy Winners: No Guaranteed Success to Canton

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Yesterday Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was the recipient of the 2017 Heisman Trophy award, the first player to win the Heisman after walking on to a team. Mayfield was also the 2016 recipient of the Brandon Burlsworth Award, given to the most outstanding college player who was a walk on. Burlsworth was a walk on at Arkansas and after being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, was tragically killed in an automobile accident returning home from Indianapolis after OTA’s. His story was documented in the movie “The Greater” which premiered at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

A Heisman win doesn’t always guarantee success at the next level but for a small group of winners, it did translate to success in the pros. And not just success, but nine Heisman Trophy winners have reached the pinnacle and have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Doak Walker, Paul Hornung, Roger Staubach, O.J. Simpson, Tony Dorsett, Earl Campbell, Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders and Tim Brown.

Charles Woodson is not eligible yet for the Hall of Fame, but the 1997 winner is a strong candidate to be enshrined on the first ballot. Woodson would push that total to 10 winners in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Prior to the 2017 winner being announced, there have been 82 winners. Including Woodson, that means 10/82 winners are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, or 12.2 percent of winners.

Imagine that, only 12 percent of winners were able to see their success in college football translate to the pro game where they remained at the top of the sport. Sure, some of the early Heisman winners didn’t even pursue a professional career because of many reasons. The primary one being professional football was in its infancy the first three decades the Heisman was awarded, so you have to account for that.

In the modern era of the NFL, only Oklahoma’s Jason White is the only winner not to play in the NFL, even in the preseason. Think there’s a chance we see Mayfield or Jackson in Canton, Ohio one day as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame? The odds are stacked against them.

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