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Daniels Hopes to Live Up to the Heisman Hype

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels flashed potential as a true freshman at Arizona State in 2019. But where Daniels would truly flourish would be Baton Rouge, La. After three seasons with the Sun Devils, Daniels would transfer to LSU, and hoped coach Brian Kelly could unlock more of his potential.

In his first year at LSU in 2022, Daniels led the Tigers to an upset of Alabama and an SEC West Division title. During Daniels’ second year with LSU, the Tigers won less, but Daniels’ star didn’t dim any. He put up 3,812 passing yards and threw 40 touchdown passes with only four interceptions to become LSU’s third Heisman Trophy winner.

The Heisman Trophy award is given to the nation’s top Division I college football player. Generally considered the most prestigious award in the sport, winning the Heisman cements a player’s college legacy. Once those players move to the pro ranks, there is a mixed record of success.


LSU’s Winners Have Had Pro Success



There has been some talk of a Heisman curse, with many of the top college players having success replicating their success in the pros. But LSU’s first two winners have set a path to show that Daniels can have success. Billy Cannon was LSU’s first Heisman winner when he picked up the award in 1959.

Cannon signed with the fledgling American Football League to play for the Houston Oilers. During Cannon’s first two seasons as a pro, the Oilers won the AFL title. He was picked as the AFL Championship game MVP in 1960 and 1961. Cannon ended up playing from 1960 with the Oilers, Oakland Raiders, and Kansas City Chiefs.

Cannon finished his career with 2,455 rushing yards and 3,656 receiving yards. The other LSU Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t had his full story told just yet. Burrow won the award in 2019. Much like Daniels, Burrow didn’t start his career in the bayou.

Burrow transferred to LSU from Ohio State. After being made the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, Burrow has turned around the sad-sack Cincinnati Bengals. Burrow led the Bengals to Super Bowl LVI, where Cincinnati lost 23-20 to the Los Angeles Rams.


First Heiman Winner Couldn’t Make Dollars and Cents Work



Expectations have changed for professional football players and their earning potential has changed since Jay Berwanger won the first Heisman Trophy in 1935. Professional football was in its early days and hadn’t achieved much popularity. When Berwanger, who attended the University of Chicago, tried to negotiate his salary, he found he could do better going into business.

Reportedly, Berwanger wanted $15,000 a season to play for the Chicago Bears, while owner George Halas only wanted to pay $13,500. Berwanger decided to become a manufacturer of plastic car parts instead. Not knowing what to do with the Heisman Trophy, he gave it to his aunt, who used it as a doorstop.

But Black sports news shows that college football players who win the Heisman are now able to capitalize on the award long after their careers end. Heisman winners are still featured in commercials and have other revenue options available to them.


Dorsett Saves Hometown Program


Tony Dorsett did more than bring glory to himself. The eventual College and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back restored the roar to the Pitt Panthers’ football program. In the late 1930s, the University of Pittsburgh administration de-emphasized the football program.

The move crippled the Panthers, who had claimed eight national championships between 1916 and 1939. Pitt wouldn’t get back to national prominence until Dorsett showed up in the early 1970s. Dorsett, from nearby Aliquippa, Pa., set the NCAA’s rushing record during his time at Pitt. During Dorsett’s senior season, he would win the Heisman Trophy as the Panthers went on to finish undefeated and win their first national championship since 1938.

Dorsett’s success didn’t stop when he got his diploma. During Dorsett’s first season in the NFL, he would help the Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl. Dorsett would play in the NFL from 1977 to 1988, piling up 12,739 rushing yards.


Plunkett, Howard Goes From Bust to Super Bowl MVP


There are four players who have been both the Super Bowl MVP and Heisman Trophy winner. While Dallas Cowboys legendary quarterback Roger Staubach and Los Angeles Raiders running back Marcus Allen won’t surprise anyone, the other two winners took their time to become stars.

Jim Plunkett was the No. 1 overall pick by the New England Patriots in 1971. But the Stanford product had a hard time adjusting to playing quarterback in the NFL. After struggling in New England, Plunkett had a stop in San Francisco before ending up in Oakland in 1978. 

Little was thought of Plunkett, who wouldn’t attempt any passes in 1978 and only 15 in 1979. However, in 1980, Oakland quarterback Dan Pastorini broke his leg. Plunkett would be called on to fill in, and it changed his life. That season ended with Plunkett being named the MVP of the Super Bowl after torching the Philadelphia Eagles for 261 yards and three touchdowns.

Plunkett would end up leading the Raiders to a surprising upset over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII as well. Washington had the league’s top-scoring offense but only put up nine as the Raiders dominated with a 38-9 win.

Desmond Howard is the other player to win Super Bowl MVP and the Heisman. Howard’s comeback story was as improbable as Plunkett’s. Howard was drafted No. 4 overall by Washington in 1992 but never fit in.

Howard would be picked up by Jacksonville in 1995 in the expansion draft but would be cut after one season. But in 1996, Howard landed with Green Bay and had his best season as a pro.

He led the NFL in punt return yards and punt return touchdowns. Howard would win Super Bowl MVP in the Packers’ 35-21 win over the Patriots after he ran back a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to extend their lead to 14 points. Howard also had several big punt returns in the game.

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