Since its inception in 1935, the Heisman Trophy has become a symbol of excellence, a beacon of recognition for the most outstanding player each season in college football. With its rich history spanning nearly a century, the award has been the crowning achievement for many talented athletes. This article takes you through the prestigious programs that have produced the most Heisman winners.
We’ll explore the celebrated halls of Ohio State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and USC, each of which proudly boasts seven Heisman recipients. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or new to the game, prepare for an exciting exploration into the heart of college football’s most prestigious award.
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Ohio State – 7
Ohio State University, fondly known as the Buckeyes, has been the breeding ground for seven Heisman Trophy winners. The first was Les Horvath, who received the award in 1944. In 1950, Vic Janowicz was honored, followed by Howard Cassady in 1955. However, it was in the mid-70s when Ohio State etched a record that still stands unbroken. Archie Griffin, standing at just 5-foot-9 and weighing 180 pounds, became the only player ever to win the Heisman twice, in 1974 and 1975.
He led the Buckeyes to a remarkable 40-5-1 record and four Big Ten titles. Eddie George in 1995 and Troy Smith in 2006 were the latest to join this illustrious list. Each of these athletes has left an indelible mark on the sport, demonstrating excellence on the gridiron and adding to the rich legacy of Ohio State football.
Oklahoma – 7
The University of Oklahoma, the home of the Sooners, shares the spotlight, boasting seven Heisman Trophy victors of their own. The tradition began with Billy Vessels in 1952, followed by Steve Owens claiming the trophy in 1969. The 1970s saw the rise of Billy Sims, who brought home the Heisman in 1978. More than two decades ensued before Jason White broke the drought in 2003. In a stunning show of consistency, Sam Bradford followed suit in 2008.
The most recent chapter of this illustrious story belongs to Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Mayfield, after his outstanding performance, earned the Heisman in 2017. The following year, Kyler Murray, in the wake of Mayfield’s success, put up equally impressive numbers, leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff and securing the Heisman in 2018. The University of Oklahoma’s notable Heisman history is a testament to the exceptional talent and dedication nurtured at this institution.
Notre Dame – 7
Notre Dame, the emblematic institution known as the Fighting Irish, shares the honor of producing seven Heisman Trophy winners. The tradition began in 1943 when Angelo Bertelli took the coveted award, establishing an early precedent for Notre Dame’s excellence. Four years later, in 1947, John Lujack became the second Heisman recipient from Notre Dame. This success continued in 1949 with Leon Hart and in 1953 with John Lattner. The mid-50s witnessed the crowning of Paul Hornung in 1956, another notable figure in the history of Notre Dame football.
The university had to wait until 1964 for its next Heisman winner, John Huarte. The most recent winner from Notre Dame came in 1987 when Tim Brown joined the ranks of these illustrious players. Each of these athletes has contributed immensely to the storied history of Notre Dame football, etching their names in the annals of this prestigious award.
Southern California – 7
The Southern California Trojans, known for their cardinal and gold, have produced seven Heisman Trophy winners. The winning streak began in 1965 when Mike Garrett won the coveted award. The tradition continued with O. J. Simpson in 1968, followed by a standout season from Charles White in 1979. In 1981, Marcus Allen carved a place in history, becoming the first player in FBS history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season, which secured him the Heisman. It wasn’t until two decades later that quarterback Carson Palmer would break the running back trend in 2002, followed by Matt Leinart in 2004.
The Trojans’ most recent Heisman Trophy was awarded to Caleb Williams in 2022. Although Reggie Bush’s Heisman award in 2005 was later forfeited due to NCAA violations, the talent and commitment of USC’s athletes remained unwavering, ensuring their place in the history of this prestigious award.
Alabama – 4
The University of Alabama, affectionately known as the Crimson Tide, has produced four Heisman Trophy winners, placing them among the illustrious ranks of schools with multiple recipients of this prestigious award. Alabama’s Heisman journey began in 2009, when running back Mark Ingram carved his name into history, becoming the first player from the university to win the award. Ingram’s success was followed by another stellar running back, Derrick Henry, who clinched the trophy in 2015. In 2020, wide receiver Devonta Smith broke the mold, becoming the first non-quarterback or running back to claim the award since 1997.
Most recently, the honor went to quarterback Bryce Young in 2021, who etched his name in history as Alabama’s first quarterback to receive this award. Young’s win also marked the first time since 2018 that a program had back-to-back winners — another testament to the Crimson Tide’s remarkable talent. Under the leadership of head coach Nick Saban, these athletes have made their mark on Alabama football and contributed to the rich legacy of the Heisman Trophy.
The Heisman Trophy is more than just an award; it’s a testament to collegiate athletes’ determination, skill, and spirit. It marks a significant achievement in a player’s career and adds to the rich history of their respective institutions. Schools like Ohio State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Southern California, and Alabama, with their multiple Heisman recipients, have cemented their status in the annals of college football. As avid college football fans, we eagerly anticipate the start of each season, not just for the thrill of the games but also for the speculation and debate around the Heisman Trophy odds. The question of who will join the ranks of the illustrious Heisman winners adds another layer of excitement to an already exhilarating sport.