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10 Best NFL Players Who Won the Heisman Trophy

Posted on July 21, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Cam Newton will try to join a small group of former Heisman Trophy winners who have been successful in the NFL.

2010 Heisman Trophy Winner Cam Newton is set to begin his career as a NFL quarterback with the Carolina Panthers.

Newton will have fight the Heisman “curse” in which former Heisman Trophy winners do not have productive NFL careers.

However, there have been a number of Heisman winners that not only had successful careers in the NFL, but some ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Here are now the 10 Best NFL Players who won the Heisman Trophy:
10. Jim Plunkett-For the first half of his career, Plunkett was a bust as he struggled with the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers following his Heisman win at Stanford in 1970.

Plunkett joined the Oakland Raiders in 1978 to become its backup quarterback and in 1980 became the starter when incumbent Dan Pastorini broke his leg and led the Raiders to a Super Bowl title and was the game’s MVP with a 13-of-21 performance for 261 yards and three touchdowns.

Plunkett remained with the Raiders for six more seasons and led the Raiders to another Super Bowl title in 1983.

9. Paul Hornung-“The Golden Boy” won the Heisman in 1956 despite his Notre Dame Fighting Irish winning only two games, then became a vital part in the Green Bay Packers’ dynasty of the 1960s with his versatility as a halfback, receiver, and kicker.

In his nine NFL seasons, Hornung accounted for a total of 760 points and led the league in scoring from 1959-61, including a then-record 176 points in 1960 and the NFL MVP in 1961.

Hornung helped the Packers to four NFL championships despite missing the 1963 season for betting on NFL games.

8. Eddie George-The 1995 Heisman winner Ohio State became one of the toughest and best running backs during his time in the NFL.

George played nine seasons in the NFL, all but one with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, and never missed a game to injury during his time with the Titans.

In his eight seasons with the Titans, George rushed for over 1,000 yards in each season except 2001 where he rushed for 942 yards, and was named to four straight Pro Bowls form 1997 to 2000.

George was a part of the Titans’ Super Bowl team in 1999 where he rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns in Tennessee’s 23-16 defeat to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Eddie George rushed for more than 10,000 yards in his nine seasons in the NFL.

7. Tim Brown-Brown became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman in 1987 at Notre Dame, then went on to became one of the best wide receivers in NFL history.

In his 17 seasons, 16 of them with the Raiders, Brown caught 1, 094 passes for 14, 934 yards and 100 touchdowns, which currently ranks 3rd, 2nd, and 3rd on the NFL’s all-time receiving list.

Brown also ranks 5th on the all-time all-purpose yards list with 19, 682 combined yards, thanks to 4,445 yards on kickoff and punt returns.

6. Earl Campbell-“The Tyler Rose” did not have to leave his home state of Texas after he was selected by the Houston Oilers as the #1 overall pick, following his Heisman-winning season in 1977 with the University of Texas.

Campbell would lead the league in rushing in his first three seasons and helped the Oilers to back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game in 1978 and1979.

Although his career ended after playing only eight seasons, Campbell would end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame thanks to his 9,407 career rushing yards and 74 touchdowns.

5. Tony Dorsett-“TD” led Pittsburgh to the national championship in his Heisman-winning season in 176, and then helped the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl in his rookie season in 1977.
Dorsett would play 11 more seasons, 10 with the Cowboys, and would rush for 12, 739 yards during his career, landing him 8th all-time on the NFL’s career rushing list.

Also, Dorsett would score 92 career touchdowns, including the longest run from scrimmage, a 99-yard touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings in 1983.

Marcus Allen helped the Raiders win the Super Bowl just two years after he won the Heisman at USC.

4. Marcus Allen-Allen won the 1981 Heisman thanks to his 2,342 rushing yards, the first 2,000 rushing yard season in NCAA Football history, and then went on to become one of the best, if not the best, dual-threat running back the NFL has ever seen in his 16 NFL seasons with the Raiders and the Chiefs.

Allen was the first player to have at least 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards in a career, as he ran for 12,243 yards, and caught 587 passes for 5, 411 yards, as he accounted for 144 career touchdowns.

He is best remembered for his 74-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XVIII where the Raiders routed the Washington Redskins 38-9 as Allen was the game’s MVP with his 20 carries for 191 yards.


3. O.J. Simpson-While it seems hard to think of now, O.J. Simpson was one of the most exciting running backs and charismatic athletes of all time.

Following his Heisman season in 1968 at USC, “The Juice” played 11 NFL seasons, nine of them with the Buffalo Bills, as he rushed for a career total of 11,236 yards, which included the first 2,000 yard rushing season in 1973, with 2,003 yards.

From 1972 through 1976, Simpson averaged 1,540 rushing yards each season, and won the NFL’s rushing title every year during that time except one and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985.

2. Roger Staubach-While he does not rank in the top 50 of career passing yards, completions, and touchdown passes, Roger Staubach is one of the best and most beloved quarterbacks in NFL history.

After winning the Heisman in 1963, Staubach served five years in the U.S. Navy, then joined the After Dallas Cowboys in 1969 and became the full-time starter in 1971.

In the next nine seasons, “Roger the Dodger” was elected to six Pro Bowls and led the Cowboys to four Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them, including a MVP performance in Super Bowl VI.

But Staubach was best known for his late-game heroics as he led the Cowboys to 23 game-winning drives, 17 of them in the final two minutes, of the fourth quarter to earn the moniker “Captain Comeback”.

Barry Sanders was one of the most electrifying running backs in college and NFL history.

1. Barry Sanders-In his Heisman-winning season in 1988, Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders shattered all sorts of records as he rushed for 2,628 yards and scored 39 touchdowns.

He followed this remarkable season with a remarkable career in the NFL as Sanders ran for over 1,000 yards in each of his 10 seasons with the Detroit Lions, which included a 2, 053 yard season in 1997.

Sanders would retire following the 1998 season with 15, 269 rushing yards, just 1, 457 yards of breaking Walter Payton’s record of most career rushing yards in the NFL.


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