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Heisman hindsight

Re-evaluating the selections over the last 20 years

Posted: Friday December 7, 2007 11:12AM; Updated: Saturday December 8, 2007 8:56PM
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Barry Sanders
Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders enjoyed arguably the greatest season ever for a running back in 1988.
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It is arguably the most recognizable trophy in all of sports, a stiff-armed bronze symbol that defines the all-American golden-boy spirit. The Heisman Trophy's winners stir memories of all-time greats who have won Super Bowl MVPs, been enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame ... and even excelled in other pro sports (Florida State's Charlie Ward played in the NBA).

The award goes to "the most outstanding player in college football." But some Heisman recipients have won the award because of the voting process that is often influenced by unwritten rules that make age, wins and losses and position as important as individual dominance.

Saturday, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, made history by becoming the first underclassman to win the award in its 72-year history. But Tebow is not the first freshman or sophomore who should have won.

Let's take a look back at the past 20 Heisman winners and evaluate who won, and in some cases, who should have won.

1987
Winner: Tim Brown, Notre Dame
Who Should Have Won: Don McPherson, Syracuse.

Brown was asked at the ceremony whether playing for Notre Dame helped him win the award -- and there's real reason to believe it did. He started the season strong (two punt returns for TDs vs. Michigan State) but finished with just 39 catches. Still, he was a landslide winner over McPherson, who won the Maxwell Award (given to the nation's top player) after leading the nation in passing and directing Syracuse to a perfect season.

1988
Winner: Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State
Who Should Have Won: Sanders

There's no arguing about the greatest back at any level and the greatest individual season of all time. Sanders set 25 single-season records in 1988, including rushing yards (2,628), rushing touchdowns (39) and all-purpose yards (3,249). Second-place finisher, Rodney Peete of USC, received just 70 first-place votes to Sanders' 559.

1989
Winner: Andre Ware, Houston
Who Should Have Won: Anthony Thompson, Indiana

Ware is the reason no Texas Tech, Hawaii or any other system quarterback will likely ever win the award. Ware put up gaudy numbers (4,299 yards and 44 touchdowns) in the Cougars' run-and-shoot offense, numbers that didn't look so impressive when David Klinger stepped in a year later and topped them. Thompson, the Maxwell winner, was more than worthy with 1,793 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns, but he finished 70 points back.

1990
Winner: Ty Detmer, BYU
Who Should Have Won: Detmer

Those 10,000 cloth ties, called Heisman "Tys," that BYU sent out did the trick, as Detmer became the WAC's first winner. You can make a case it should have been Notre Dame's Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, but the forefather to Reggie Bush and Percy Harvin was ninth in all-purpose yardage, while Detmer's numbers were too impressive to ignore. The junior passed for 5,188 yards and 41 touchdowns, while setting, or tying, 47 NCAA records.

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