Most Heisman Trophy winners from college football’s elite schools

Heisman Trophy winners have been collecting college football’s most prestigious individual award since 1935, but there are only a select number of elite schools with multiple recipients of the iconic hardware.

Only 11 powerhouse programs in NCAA football have three or more Heisman Trophy winners, and the most dominant team in the country nowadays, the Alabama Crimson Tide, have had their winning threesome nearly in the same decade.

But who has the all-time bragging rights as of now? Believe it or not, several other schools trump Alabama’s total. Read on to find out who among the elite schools has the very most Heisman Trophy winners, with all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

Alabama Crimson Tide – 3 Heisman Trophy winners

7 schools have 3 Heisman Trophy winners apiece
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Mark Ingram, running back, 2009
  • Derrick Henry, running back, 2015
  • DeVonta Smith, wide receiver, 2020

Here’s a fun fact: Since the dawn of the new millennium, every single Heisman Trophy recipient who’s officially recognized is a quarterback. That is, except the epic triumvirate from Tuscaloosa listed above.

Yes, the Crimson Tide carry that distinction, because USC’s Reggie Bush saw his award vacated in 2005 due to NCAA violations. We can still fondly remember Bush for his playmaking prowess, but let’s keep the focus on Alabama here.

Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry have gone on to successful NFL careers, defying the so-called Heisman curse. Ingram is a shorter back with a stout build whose decisive running style and power helped him thrive in college. Meanwhile, Henry is just a size-speed freak of nature who even NFL defenders want no part of tackling.

Smith’s 2020 campaign was phenomenal, as he had 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. He rightfully beat out his quarterback and fellow first-round pick, Mac Jones, for the award.

Auburn Tigers – 3 Heisman Trophy winners

  • Pat Sullivan, quarterback, 1979
  • Bo Jackson, running back, 1985
  • Cam Newton, quarterback, 2010

How awesome is Bo Jackson? Beyond being a Tecmo Bowl video game legend, Jackson lived up to the hype in real life. He was a two-sport professional star in football and baseball, but when he had the ball in his hands on the gridiron, there was nothing quite like it.

Cam Newton’s story is just epic, too. Off-field issues at Florida forced Newton to transfer to Blinn College. In his one year at Auburn thereafter, he led the Tigers to a national championship. Newton accounted for 50 total touchdowns (30 passing, 20 rushing) in 2010, carrying Auburn to a perfect 14-0 record in one of the greatest individual seasons ever.

Army Black Knights – 3 Heisman Trophy winners

  • Doc Blanchard, fullback, 1945
  • Glenn Davis, running back, 1946
  • Pete Dawkins running back, 1958

You’d hardly think of Army as a college football powerhouse, but the Black Knights had an amazing run as three of their players picked up Heisman Trophy honors.

Under head coach Earl Blaik, Army posted an exceptional 121-33-10 record and won three national championships in a row. Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard were the key players in that three-peat run. Davis had 3,099 career yards from scrimmage and 48 touchdowns, while Blanchard posted totals of 2,098 and 35 in those categories.

Florida Gators – 3 Heisman Trophy winners

7 schools have 3 Heisman Trophy winners apiece
Oct 24, 2009; Starkville, MS, USA; Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer (center) and quarterback Tim Tebow (15) watch the scoreboard during a time out against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the first half at Davis Wade Stadium. The Gators beat the Bulldogs 29-19. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
  • Steve Spurrier, quarterback, 1966
  • Danny Wuerffel, quarterback, 1996
  • Tim Tebow, quarterback, 2007

It’s all about the quarterback for the Florida Gators, and even more interesting about this list is that Steve Spurrier was actually Wuerffel’s head coach when they combined to help the Gators to a national championship in 1996.

Spurrier and Wuerffel were starkly different players from Tim Tebow, though. The lightning rod that Tebow proved to be was unlike anything college football had ever seen before. Tebow accounted for 3,286 yards and 32 TDs through the air to go with 895 yards and 23 TDs on the ground when he rightfully seized the Heisman in 2007.

Florida State Seminoles – 3 Heisman Trophy winners

  • Charlie Ward, quarterback, 1993
  • Chris Weinke, quarterback, 2000
  • Jameis Winston, quarterback, 2013

There’s a theme of two-sport stars when it comes to the Seminoles’ Heisman Trophy winners.

It’s crazy to think that Charlie Ward also played basketball at Florida State, and still received the Heisman as a senior. Ward went on to play in the NBA, as dual-threat QBs were few and far between when he was intending to enter the NFL, but he was electrifying for the Seminoles as a two-year starter.

Chris Weinke tried to play baseball professionally before a strong career in college football. He was the oldest player ever to win the Heisman at age 28.

Finally, Jameis Winston played baseball for the Seminoles but wisely stuck to football in the end. Matching Johnny Manziel’s groundbreaking achievement as the only other freshman Heisman recipient, Winston went even further by delivering a national championship victory that year, too.

Michigan Wolverines – 3 Heisman Trophy winners

7 schools have 3 Heisman Trophy winners apiece
Sep 3, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines former player Charles Woodson is introduced during the first half of the game against the Hawaii Warriors at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tom Harmon, running back, 1940
  • Desmond Howard, wide receiver/punt returner, 1991
  • Charles Woodson, cornerback/punt returner, 1997

The Wolverines have one of college football’s richest traditions, period. Their history stretches back to the 19th century, and Tom Harmon’s three years as a tailback-quarterback hybrid helped pull Michigan out of a relative slump from the mid-1930s.

Versatility is a common thread that links these Michigan men, in fact. When it comes to Desmond Howard, he was as dangerous on offense as he was on special teams to take it to the house — Big House pun intended.

Charles Woodson was one-of-a-kind. He’d take snaps at receiver and running back on offense, excelled as a punt return man, but most impressively, shut down the opposition as the extremely rare defensive player to join the Heisman fraternity. Woodson was just too good to be denied in 1997, when he hauled in seven of his 16 interceptions.

Nebraska Cornhuskers – 3 Heisman Trophy winners

  • Johnny Rodgers, running back/wide receiver, 1972
  • Mike Rozier, running back, 1983
  • Eric Crouch, quarterback, 2001

It’s been tough sledding for the Cornhuskers for the most part since Tom Osborne went out on top with a perfect 12-0 mark in 1997. Not long after that, however, Eric Crouch came along and hoisted the Heisman Trophy largely thanks to his rushing prowess, as he racked up 1,115 yards on the ground and 18 touchdowns in 2001.

But let’s not forget Mike Rozier’s 2,148-yard rushing campaign in 1983 on 7.8 yards per carry and 29 TDs. How about them apples? Also, Johnny Rodgers ran for 10 scores while going over 1,000 yards receiving in 1972. That’s an incredible feat in its own right.

USC Trojans – 6 Heisman Trophy winners

The USC Trojans have had 6 Heisman Trophy winners
Jan 04, 2005; Miami, FL, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart in action during the 2005 Orange Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners. Leinart, who threw 5 touchdowns, was named the game’s MVP. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports (©) Copyright 2005 by Matthew Emmons
  • Mike Garrett, running back, 1965
  • O.J. Simpson, running back, 1968
  • Charles White, running back, 1979
  • Marcus Allen, running back, 1981
  • Carson Palmer, quarterback, 2002
  • Matt Leinart, quarterback, 2004

Mike Garrett broke through in 1965 as USC’s first player to take home the Heisman, pioneering the tradition of tailback greatness in the first place. O.J. Simpson is infamous for his off-field life, but he nearly won back-to-back Heismans, finishing second in the 1967 voting. His two-year college career consisted of 3,423 yards rushing and 36 touchdowns.

Matt Leinart greatly benefited from Reggie Bush’s presence, yet did well in his own right to guide the Trojans to consecutive national titles in a truly epic three-year starting tenure.

Carson Palmer is probably known more for what he did in the NFL than how he fared in college. He showed how sticking with the program as a fifth-year senior could pay huge dividends when he claimed his Heisman in 2002.

The most impressive campaign of all has to go to Marcus Allen, though. In 1981, he ran for 2,427 yards and 22 touchdowns on 433 carries. Those are just mind-boggling numbers, and a testament to Allen’s toughness to take on that historic workload.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 7 Heisman Trophy winners

3 elite schools have produced a record 7 Heisman Trophy winners
Nov 1986; South Bend, IN, USA; FILE PHOTO; Notre Dame Irish receiver (81) Tim Brown in action against Penn State Nittany Lions at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
  • Angelo Bertelli, quarterback, 1943
  • Johnny Lujack, quarterback, 1947
  • Leon Hart, tight end, 1949
  • Johnny Lattner, running back, 1953
  • Paul Hornung, quarterback, 1956
  • John Huarte, quarterback, 1964
  • Tim Brown, wide receiver, 1987

It’s a rich lineage of quarterbacks in South Bend, Indiana, when it comes to Notre Dame’s multitude of Heisman Trophy winners. Before it was trendy for field generals to win the voting, the Fighting Irish had plenty of QBs get the job done.

Given how hard it is for non-quarterbacks to win especially of late, let’s appreciate what Tim Brown did in 1987. Coming off a 5-6 season, Notre Dame needed to get things moving in the right direction under second-year head coach Lou Holtz. Brown would prove instrumental to that cause.

In helping the Irish to an 8-4 record, Brown had 34 carries for 144 yards and a score, three punt return TDs and 846 yards receiving on only 39 receptions (21.7 yards per catch). The next year, Notre Dame had a perfect record and won the national championship.

Ohio State Buckeyes – 7 Heisman Trophy winners

Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes former running back Eddie George before the 2015 CFP National Championship Game against the Oregon Ducks at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
  • Les Horvath, running back/quarterback, 1944
  • Vic Janowicz, running back/punter, 1950
  • Howard Cassady, running back, 1955
  • Archie Griffin, running back, 1974 & 1975
  • Eddie George, running back, 1995
  • Troy Smith, quarterback, 2006

Similar to USC, it’s a rich running back history at Ohio State. The man who stands out from the crowd of accomplished runners, though, is obviously Archie Griffin. The Scarlet and Gray have bragging rights in the sense that the Buckeyes are the only program to produce someone who’s earned this prestigious accolade twice.

To go over more recent history, Eddie George made the most of his final season in Columbus, rushing for 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns to go with 47 receptions for 417 yards. That blend of hard-nosed running and pass-catching prowess made George a threat to score any time he touched the ball.

Oklahoma Sooners – 7 Heisman Trophy winners

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (left) and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray exchange jerseys after Arizona Cardinals won 38-24 at State Farm Stadium December 15, 2019. Credit: Michael Chow/The Republic, Arizona Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC
  • Billy Vessels, running back, 1952
  • Steve Owens, fullback, 1969
  • Billy Sims, running back, 1978
  • Jason White, quarterback, 2003
  • Sam Bradford, quarterback, 2008
  • Baker Mayfield, quarterback, 2017
  • Kyler Murray, quarterback, 2018

Thanks to the spread offense, Oklahoma has been a catalyst for changing the landscape of college football. Bob Stoops oversaw the Heisman-winning efforts of Jason White and Sam Bradford, but Stoops’ successor, Lincoln Riley, has taken everything to another level, producing two award winners who went on to be No. 1 overall draft picks.

Baker Mayfield played with a mountain-sized chip on his shoulder as a Texas Tech transfer. He thrived in Stoops’ final year, but took his game to that next, Heisman level with Riley at the helm in 2017, throwing for 4,627 yards, 43 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Who would’ve thought that another Lone Star State transfer from Texas A&M, Kyler Murray, would actually top Mayfield’s prolific production the next year?

Murray was a top-10 pick in the MLB Draft, but dropped a chance to pursue that path with the Oakland Athletics, and in his one full season as a starter for the Sooners? Well, you know. He won the Heisman, throwing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns, with 1,001 rushing yards and 12 more TDs on the ground.

And that caps off our full list of the elite college football programs who’ve produced three or more Heisman Trophy winners. Stay tuned to see who wins this coming year. Chances are, it’ll be a quarterback — and may just be another one from Oklahoma.

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