Does it feel like a millstone sometimes? Do you ever regret having won the Heisman Trophy? Those questions were posed to Desmond Howard, who won the award as a Michigan wide receiver and kick returner in 1991. Howard became the fourth player selected in the NFL draft the next spring and has borne the label "bust" ever since.
"It's an unbelievable honor," says Howard, who performed poorly on the rare occasions he played during three seasons with the Washington Redskins but is now a starter for the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars. "But you have to move on, because what happens after that doesn't have anything to do with what happened to you in college."
Indeed, over the last 15 years, for every Heisman winner who reached the Pro Bowl—for every George Rogers (1980), Bo Jackson ('85) and Barry Sanders ('88)—there were guys whose acceptance of the unwieldy statue marked the peak of their athletic careers. Where, for instance, is Andre Ware, the Houston quarterback who won in 1989 and was selected by the Detroit Lions with the seventh overall draft pick four months later? When the Jaguars cut him last August, Ware turned in his playbook for the third time in six years. "I'll hold my head up and go on and do whatever the Lord has in store for me," he said at the time.
The Lord had cold temperatures in store for Ware, who spent this sea-son with the Ottawa Roughriders of the CFL. He's not the first Heisman winner to land in the Great White North. Doug Flutie, the '84 recipient now quarter-backing the Calgary Stampeders, had to immigrate to Canada to recapture the glory he earned at Boston College. The vest-pocket expatriate (and ex-Patriot) is now in his sixth season in the CFL, where he has won a Grey Cup and is the only four-time winner of the Most Outstanding Player Award in league history.
While Flutie has been collecting MOPAs, other recent Heisman-winning quarterbacks have been moping. Miami's Gino Torretta, who beat out Marshall Faulk for the Heisman in '92, was cut by the Lions on Sept. 5 and is out of football. Torretta was the second Hurricane signal-caller to win the Heisman, the first having been Vinny Testaverde ('86), whom the Tampa Bay Bucs made the first pick of the '87 NFL draft. So certain was the Buccaneer brain trust of his greatness that it jettisoned its starter, a skittish lefty by the name of Steve Young.
As it turned out, Testaverde arrived in the NFL slightly deficient in reading defenses. "At Miami he didn't have to read anything," says Tampa Bay quarterback coach Turk Schoenert. "He just dropped back, and his receivers ran by people. He got away with throws in college that he couldn't get away with here."
Testaverde threw 35 interceptions in 1988. After six years in Tampa he was dealt to the Cleveland Browns, who benched him two weeks ago in favor of Eric Zeier, a rookie out of Georgia whose credentials do not include a Heisman Trophy. Last year the award went to Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam, now of the Chicago Bears. The word on Salaam has been good but not great: Through 10 games he was on pace to rush for almost 1,000 yards, though it remains to be seen whether he has fully recovered from a bout of early-season fumble-itis.