DeVonta Smith is the latest Heisman Trophy winner but where does he rank among the other 20 winners of the award in the 21st century?
It may have been nearly a month after the Heisman Trophy is traditionally handed out — another unique aspect of this unprecedented college football season — but Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith cemented his name among the legends of the game on Tuesday night. The first wide receiver to win the award since Desmond Howard in 1991, there’s no argument that Smith wasn’t deserving.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, though, it has seemed as if the Heisman Trophy race has become more competitive simply since more players are putting up simply outlandish numbers each season. Smith having the kind of season he did amid a truncated schedule is a testament to that.
So with Smith now being the 21st Heisman winner this century, it’s an interesting exercise to look back at all of the winners since 2000 and see how they stack up against one another. We’ll not only see where Smith’s 2020 season fits into the mix but also determine who the truly best of the best were.
Heisman Trophy winner No. 21: Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska (2001)
It’s a bit wild to look at the stark difference between what was considered a mobile quarterback in the 2000 college football season and what we know see in that mold. Eric Crouch was undoubtedly a talented rusher, putting up 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground for the season. But he was almost wholly ineffective as a passer.
The Nebraska quarterback had more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (7) on the season while only completing 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,510 yards. At the end of the day, the success of the Huskers played a large role in why he took home the award, albeit in a pretty close race.
Heisman Trophy winner No. 20: Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State (2006)
At the time, there wasn’t a great argument as to why Troy Smith shouldn’t have won the Heisman after the 2006 season — and there still might not be. The Ohio State quarterback had a productive year as a passer, throwing for 30 touchdowns with only six interceptions.
But the fact of the matter is that Smith’s rushing production was down from the previous season and, at the end of the day, the Buckeye great only threw for 2,542 yards on the year. Again, that is still enough to say that he deserved to win the award that season but, when you stack it up against the other winners this century, it fails to compare.
Heisman Trophy winner No. 19: Matt Leinart, QB, USC (2004)
In the early 2000s when USC was looking like an outright dynasty under Pete Carroll, it was seemingly one Heisman Trophy winner after another coming through the Trojans program. So when Carson Palmer left, it was Matt Leinart’s turn. And he hit the ground running, winning the award in his second season as the starter, his junior campaign, as he threw for 3,322 yards with 33 touchdowns and only six interceptions to go with three rushing touchdowns as well.
Leinart, however, comes in this low on the list for two reasons. First, those numbers do pale in comparison a bit to other winners that we’ve seen recently. But more importantly, it wasn’t even his best season at USC, which does knock him down a peg.