LES HORVATH WAS IN CHEMISTRY class when he learned the good news: He had won the 1944 Heisman Trophy, a dean told him, bringing that day's lecture to a halt. This was a flash that wouldn't wait until the end of class. Horvath was Ohio State's first Heisman winner, the quarterback's senior season earning him the seat of honor on the dais at Manhattan's Downtown Athletic Club. More surprising than his 125-point margin of victory over Army's Glenn Davis was Horvath's admitting, "I didn't know I was even in the running for the trophy." Less surprising is the number of Buckeyes who have followed in his footsteps, including Vic Janowicz in 1950 and Hopalong Cassady, whose Heisman news came from none other than George Steinbrenner (then an assistant football coach at Northwestern), in '55. Twenty years later Archie Griffin stopped the presses by winning twice. Twenty years after that, Eddie George nearly stopped an X-ray machine when his statuette passed through airport security. The bronze figurine came out on the other side with one finger broken and another bent. "I don't want that to happen to mine," Troy Smith decreed, shipping his home after his win in 2006. That gave OSU seven statuettes, which tied Notre Dame and Southern Cal for the most of any school. By now the winning might be routine, but in Columbus it's news that never gets old.
CAREER: 1940-42, '44
HIGHLIGHTS: 2,055 yards of total offense, Big Ten MVP '44, Heisman Trophy '44
After helping the Buckeyes to a 9-1 record and their first national championship in 1942, the 21-year-old Horvath gave up his eligibility in '43 to enroll in dental school. When newly arrived coach Carroll Widdoes had trouble filling his backfield (after the Buckeyes went 3-6 in '43), he appealed to Horvath, who obliged with 1,248 yards of total offense and 12 touchdowns to win conference and national honors. The College Football Hall of Famer is the only Heisman winner to earn the award after sitting out the previous season.
HIGHLIGHTS: Three-time All-America, two-time conference MVP, Heisman Trophy '74, '75
The highest praise came from coach Woody Hayes, who called Griffin "the greatest back I've ever seen." Griffin's 5,589 career rushing yards and streak of 31 consecutive 100-yard rushing games in the regular season were both NCAA records when he graduated. He remains the only back-to-back Heisman winner. Griffin trounced his competition for the award in both years, earning more than three times as many first-place points as his closest competitors.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2,466 yards rushing, 222 points scored, two-time All-America, Heisman Trophy '55
A two-way star, Hopalong exploded out of the gate in '52—rushing for three scores off the bench in a season-opening drubbing of Indiana—and stayed on the run for most of his four years in Columbus. His 37 career touchdowns and 2,466 yards rushing (which helped OSU to a 29-8 record, including an undefeated season in '54) still rank among the Buckeyes' bests. Cassady's skills as a defensive back were often overlooked, but he went on to play that position as well as halfback in the NFL. Hopalong was the first Heisman winner to exceed 2,000 total points in the voting, and his 1,477 edge over TCU's Jim Swink was the biggest margin of victory to that time.
HIGHLIGHTS: Walter Camp winner '95, 45 touchdowns, 3,768 career yards rushing, Heisman Trophy '95
A downhill runner with a penchant for battering would-be tacklers, the 6' 3", 227-pound George was one of the most brutal ballcarriers of his day. The Philly native averaged 152.2 yards and scored 25 touchdowns in his Heisman season, while rarely playing more than three quarters a game. He is probably best remembered for his virtuoso performance against Illinois on Nov. 11, 1995, when he rushed for 314 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-3 rout at the Horseshoe.
HIGHLIGHTS: 1,654 yards of total offense, Heisman Trophy '50