The Heisman Trophy has been college football's version of an MVP award for decades and immediately boosts the winner to icon status. However, the achievement hasn’t always followed the winners to the NFL.
The trophy has been awarded each year since 1935. Fifteen of those players went undrafted in the NFL and 15 more never played an NFL game. On the reverse side, there are only a select few that have won the award and gone on to display the same type of dominance throughout an NFL career.
That narrative will follow Alabama running back Derrick Henry, who was awarded the 81st Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in New York City, becoming the second Crimson Tide player to win the award. Henry powered the offense of the No. 2 team in the country and has led Alabama to the College Football Playoff for the second straight season.
With 1,832 points in the voting including 378 first place votes, Henry won the award by a fairly large margin. Henry led the country in yards and broke Herschel Walker’s SEC rushing record, accumulating 1,986 yards. He led the country in attempts (339) and touchdowns (23), finding the end zone in every game. Henry went over 100 yards rushing on nine occasions and over 200 yards four times.
Henry’s fate in the NFL remains to be seen but below we take a look at 10 winners of the Heisman who best achieved continued success playing on Sundays:
Marcus Allen, 1981 at USC: Allen became the first player in NFL history to record 10,000 rush yards and 5,000 rush yards. He sits No. 12 on the all-time list in all-purpose yards (17,648) and won MVP of Super Bowl XVIII with the Los Angeles Raiders.
Tim Brown, 1987 at Notre Dame: The first wide receiver to win the Heisman is one of 12 players with 1,000-plus catches and his 1,094 rank No. 5 all-time. This 2015 NFL Hall of Fame inductee recorded the fifth-most all-purpose yards in history (19,683).
Earl Campbell, 1977 at Texas: Campbell is one of three players to win the Heisman and be drafted No. 1 overall in the draft. He ran for over 1,000 yards five times and recorded 9,407 rushing yards in nine seasons before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
Tony Dorsett, 1976 at Pittsburgh: Dorsett is a Super Bowl champion and is No. 8 on the all-time rushing list (12,739). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
Eddie George, 1995 at Ohio State: George ran for 1,000-plus yards seven times and scored 78 touchdowns. He became the second running back to run for 10,000 yards and never miss a start in the NFL (130 games).
Carson Palmer, 2003 at USC: Palmer is his 12th NFL season and closing in on 40,000 passing yards. He’s thrown for 4,000 yards or more on five occasions and led the NFL in touchdowns in 2005.
Barry Sanders, 1988 at Oklahoma State: Sanders recorded over 1,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl in all 10 of his NFL seasons. The four-time rushing champion is the No. 3 rusher in NFL history (15,269 yards) and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
O.J. Simpson, 1968 at USC: Simpson was a five-time first-team All-Pro and a four-time rushing champion in a five-year span. The 1973 NFL MVP was the first to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and the only one to do it in 14 games.
Roger Staubach, 1963 at Navy: Staubach went to five Super Bowls, winning two and being named MVP of Super Bowl VI. The 1985 Hall of Fame inductee was the first player to win The Heisman and Super Bowl MVP.
Charles Woodson, 1997 at Michigan: Woodson, the first and only defensive player to win the award, is the only player in NFL history with more than 50 interceptions and 20 sacks. Woodson is in his 18th season and is No. 5 on the all-time interceptions list (65).