If anyone should know the pressure involved with winning back-to-back Heismans, it’s Archie Griffin. In fact, Griffin is the only one who’d know.
The Ohio State great, of course, is the only player in the history of college football to claim the prestigious Heisman Trophy in consecutive years back in 1974 and 1975.
Jameis Winston, after winning it as a redshirt freshman last year, is looking to match Griffin’s back-to-back feat. The Florida State quarterback, however, is facing a much tougher row to hoe than the first man who did it — and that’s according to the man himself. From the Associated Press:
Griffin… thinks it is more difficult to win the award in back-to-back years than it was 40 years ago. For him, the off-the-field distractions were more stressful than any defense.
“I’ll never forget that I was trying to do everything for everybody, and (coach Woody Hayes) called me into his office,” Griffin said. “He told me, `You know what? It’s going to make you soft. You can’t do everything for everybody.'”
Including Griffin and Winston, 20 non-seniors have won the Heisman, including the last seven winners (Ohio State’s quarterback Troy Smith in 2006 was the last senior). Of those 21, eight eschewed an opportunity to go back-to-back for early entry into professional football. Below are how each of the other 13 fared in the season after their Heisman win:
Army’s Doc Blanchard: 1945 winner, 4th in 1946
SMU’s Doak Walker: 1948 winner, 3rd in 1949
Ohio State’s Vic Janowicz: 1950 winner, not in 1951’s Top 10
Navy’s Roger Staubach: 1968 winner, not in 1969’s Top 10
Ohio State’s Archie Griffin: 1974 winner, 1975 winner
Oklahoma’s Billy Sims: 1978 winner, 2nd in 1979
BYU’s Ty Detmer: 1990 winner, 3rd in 1991
Oklahoma’s Jason White: 2003 winner, 3rd in 2004
USC’s Matt Leinart: 2004 winner, 3rd in 2005
Florida’s Tim Tebow: 2007 winner, 3rd in 2008
Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford: 2008 winner, injured most of 2009
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel: 2012 winner, 5th in 2013
Florida State’s Jameis Winston: 2013 winner, ?
While it appears Sims was the closest to pulling off a repeat, he actually wasn’t as, in 1979, USC’s Charles White more than doubled-up the second-place Sooner great’s vote totals. Instead, Army Glen Davis was arguably the closest… to actually beating Griffin by nearly 30 years. Davis, the 1946 winner, was runner-up to his teammate, Blanchard in the 1945 voting by just 222 votes.
Times today, though, are much different from what they were then, most certainly back in Davis’ day and even Griffin’s. With social media and television coverage, players face more scrutiny and are under a more powerful microscope than at any time before.
“They’re in a fishbowl,” Griffin told the AP when it comes to today’s Heisman contenders. “I mean, anything they do, Johnny [Manziel], every move he made it was talked about. Jameis, same thing. They’ve got to be extremely careful how they handle themselves because whatever they do, people are going to know about it.”
Johnny Football was the last player to attempt a repeat. In the run-up to the 2013 season, he was the source of constant media speculation, whether it be from NCAA violations to his partying ways.
Now a member of the Cleveland Browns — and still a lightning rod for contrived controversy — Manziel understands the “fishbowl” mentality as well as anyone. According to the quarterback, the run to the 2012 Heisman wasn’t fraught with nearly as much pressure as 2013.
“There is a lot of pressure,” Manziel said. “You’re the one that’s on TV every week. You’re the one who at the beginning of the year is already at the top of everybody’s Heisman list. … It’s everywhere because it’s the biggest trophy in college football.
“For me, I never really let it get to me too much, but at the same time, it was always around and it was always lingering no matter what went on throughout the season.”
(Photo credit: Ohio State athletics)