October 28, 2012
We’re coming up on the time when fans and college football pundits, be they talking heads on television or in the print media, begin touting players for the Heisman Trophy. Already, Matt Barkley of USC and Geno Smith of West Virginia were two quarterbacks that were highly touted to win the award but recent poor performances by their teams seem to have knocked them off the radar. That leaves the field of options wide open for contenders like Kansas State’s Collin Klein among others.
There have been Heisman Trophy winners that went on to prominent careers in the NFL, like O.J. Simpson, Bo Jackson, Earl Campbell and Barry Sanders. For others, well, let’s say the Heisman was their pinnacle, their crowning achievement in the football world. For every Heisman winner that took the trophy and went on to be a star in the NFL, there are at least a couple of guys that turned out to be Saturday studs, but Sunday duds. Today we take a look at those who won the Heisman, only to fizzle in the pros. Today we take a look at some college greats who never panned out in the NFL.
Andre Ware, University of Houston, 1989: Ware flourished in the run and shoot offense that the Cougars had while he was there from 1987-89. In 1989, he threw for 4699 yards and 46 TDs, setting 26 NCAA records. The Cougars finished the year #14 in the AP poll, Ware won the Heisman, and promptly declared for the NFL draft, forgoing his senior year.
The Detroit Lions snagged Ware with the 7th overall pick in the 1990 draft, but he was never able to gain much playing time behind Rodney Peete and Erik Kramer. He appeared in just 14 games, starting six, with the Lions from 1990-93, before falling out of the NFL for good. His career numbers, you ask? 83 of 161 for 1112 yards, with just five touchdown passes against eight interceptions.
Gino Torretta, University of Miami, 1992: Torretta took the Heisman in 1992, throwing for more than 3000 yards in the year, including a 363 yard performance in a 35-23 win over West Virginia. Torretta was 26-1 as a starter for the Hurricanes, the loss a 34-13 whipping by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl for the national title.
Torretta was not drafted until the seventh round of the 1993 draft by the Vikings and he failed to play at all that season. The Lions picked him up in 1994, and once again, Torretta did not see action, left riding the pine. 1995 saw him in NFL Europe and riding the bench again, for the Lions and 49ers. The 49ers cut him in 1996, and Torretta landed in Seattle with the Seahawks, where he saw his only action in the season finale against the Raiders. He split 1997 between the Seahawks and Colts, only to not see action again. After the 97 season, he hung up his cleats, done in the NFL at age 27. Career stats: 5 of 16, 41 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Charlie Ward, Florida State, 1993: The very next season after Torretta, pint sized QB Charlie Ward of the Florida State Seminoles garnered the award. Ward led the Seminoles to their first national title in 1993, guiding them past the Nebraska Cornhuskers 18-16 in the Orange Bowl.
Ward was torn between basketball and football, and teams, fearing that lack of commitment, did not select him in the first round. Ward was selected by the New York Knicks of the NBA with their 26th pick of the first round, and Ward became the first Heisman winner to play professional hoops. He never did suit up on Sundays in the NFL. Career stats: None.
Rashaan Salaam, University of Colorado, 1994: Salaam was just the fourth running back to crack the elusive 2000 yard barrier when he went for 2055 yards in 1994. Playing alongside Kordell Stewart, Salaam ran wild for the Buffaloes en route to the Heisman. He was selected by the Bears with the 21st overall selection in the 1995 draft.
His career started promisingly enough, gaining over 1000 yards and 10 TDs, but injuries, fumbles and marijuana had him out of Chicago by 1997. He missed 1998, and played in two games in 1999 with Cleveland and Green Bay. After missing 2000, he played for the Memphis Maniax of Vince McMahon’s brainchild, the XFL, finishing fourth in the league with 526 yards despite injuries. In 2003, he tried a comeback with the 49ers, only to be cut in the second last round of cuts. He never caught on with an NFL team again. Career stats: 470 carries, 1682 yards, 13 TD
Danny Wuerffel, Florida, 1996: Wuerffel led the Gators to four straight SEC crowns from 1993-96, and engineered the Gators run to a national title, culminating in a 52-20 thumping of in state rival Florida State for the national title. Wuerffel also is the only Heisman winner to claim the Draddy, which is awarded to the nation’s top football scholar-athlete. He threw for 10,875 yards and 114 TDs as a member of the Gators.
Despite those gaudy numbers in the “Fun n Gun” offense of Steve Spurrier, Wuerffel was not selected until the 4th round, 99th overall, by the Saints. Wuerffel spent 7 years in the NFL, four in New Orleans, and one each in Green Bay, Chicago and Washington before retiring after the 2002 season. His claim to fame as a pro was winning the World Bowl VII MVP in NFL Europe. Career Stats: 184 of 350 (52.6%) for 2123 yards, 12 TD passes and 22 interceptions.
Gary Beban, UCLA, 1967: Strangely, as bad of careers as some of these guys had, Beban may have had the worst of those who actually suited up on Sundays. Beban, known as “The Great One”, excelled in both academics and athletics, majoring in European history, and quarterbacking the Bruins across three straight seasons. As UCLA quarterback, he was named to the all-conference team three times, and led the Bruins to a 24-5-2 record. His school record for total offense lasted 15 years. As a sophomore, he threw two touchdown passes in the last four minutes to rally the Bruins over crosstown arch-rival, USC, 20-16. In the 1966 Rose Bowl, Beban scored both UCLA’s touchdowns in the Bruin’s 14-12 victory over #1 ranked Michigan State.
In his senior year, Beban played in the 1967 UCLA-USC game– widely regarded as one of the best college football games of all time. The game pitted #2 ranked USC and their Heisman Trophy-candidate running back O.J. Simpson, against the #1 Bruins and Beban — also a Heisman Trophy candidate — with both the AAWU and National championships, to say nothing of hometown bragging rights, on the line. Badly injured with bruised ribs and in great pain, Beban threw for over 300 yards and two touchdown passes to lead the Bruins in scoring. Though USC eventually won the game, 21-20, by the margin of a blocked PAT, and went on to the Rose Bowl, Gary Beban would go on to win the Heisman Trophy.
Though the UCLA football program has turned out dozens of highly successful NFL players through the years, Gary Beban was — and still remains — the only Bruin to win the Heisman.
After graduating from UCLA, Beban played in the NFL for the Washington Redskins in 1968 and 1969 — but, sitting behind veteran quarterback and future NFL Hall-of-Famer Sonny Jurgensen, Beban was not given much game time, and the professional stardom portended by his college career was not forthcoming. In 1970, Gary Beban retired from professional football and went on to become a successful businessman. Beban retired having never completed a pass in the NFL spanning the five games he saw action in. Career stats: 0 for 5, 0 yards, 5 rushes, 18 yards
Ron Dayne, University of Wisconsin, 1999:
Dayne is usually considered one of the greatest backs in NCAA football history. Known as “The Great Dayne” throughout college, Dayne was the starting running back all four years at Wisconsin. Never a flashy or boisterous player, Dayne was a workman-like back, expected to carry the ball as much as necessary – he had 1,220 carries during his career.
Over his four seasons, Dayne chased the NCAA Division I-A rushing record for total yards in a career. He gained 1,863 yards as a freshman, 1,421 as a sophomore, 1,325 as a junior, and 1,834 as a senior. He finally broke the record in the final game of the 1999 season against Iowa. Dayne ended his career with 6,397 rushing yards, eclipsing the record set the previous year by Ricky Williams of Texas.
Dayne saved some of his best performances for the four bowl games to which he led Wisconsin. He rushed for 246 to lead the Badgers to a 38-10 victory in the 1996 Copper Bowl against Utah, garnering MVP honors. Dayne only gained 36 yards in the 1998 Outback Bowl loss against Georgia the next season, but bounced back the next two seasons with 246 yards and 200 yards, respectively, in leading the Badgers to back-to-back Rose Bowl victories in 1999 and 2000 over UCLA and Stanford, respectively. Dayne won MVP honors in both Rose Bowls, becoming one of only four players to win two Rose Bowl MVPs (Washington’s Bob Schloredt, Southern California’s Charles White, and Texas’ Vince Young are the others).
Dayne was selected with the 11th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. Dayne’s first season was filled with promise as he teamed up with Tiki Barber in the backfield to create the tandem known as “Thunder and Lightning,” due to the combination of Dayne’s power and Barber’s speed. This Giants team went on to appear in Super Bowl XXXV. Over the next few years, Dayne’s carries slowly diminished, with head coach Jim Fassel growing increasingly upset with Dayne’s lack of commitment to lose weight. Fassel also did not like Dayne’s initial running style, that of a halfback, and instead tried to make him a goal line back. After Fassel was fired, Dayne received a second chance under new head coach Tom Coughlin and shed 40 lbs. Despite having a good 2004 preseason, Dayne was once again sidelined by Coughlin for unknown reasons. Some critics have speculated it was due to his inability to break tackles. Others point to his inability to break long runs like he did in college.
Career stats: 951 carries, 3567 yards, 25 TD, 3.8 yards per carry
Ty Detmer, Brigham Young University, 1990: Detmer’s junior season (1990) was his best at BYU, and ranks as one of the greatest seasons for a quarterback in college football history. Detmer passed for 5,188 yards and 41 touchdowns in 12 regular season games, and finished the year with 42 NCAA records (and tied for five others). The highpoint of the season was BYU’s 28-21 upset victory over top-ranked Miami (FL); Detmer led the Cougars by passing for 406 yards and 3 touchdowns against the defending national champions. For his efforts, Detmer was awarded the Heisman Trophy, and received many other honors (including the Maxwell Award and the Davey O’Brien Award). He was named First Team All-America by the Associated Press, UPI, Football Writers, Walter Camp, Football News, Scripps Howard, and the Sporting News. Unfortunately for Detmer and BYU, the season ended in disastrous fashion: the Cougars lost 59-28 in their final regular season game (against Hawaii), then lost 65-14 to Texas A&M in the 1990 Holiday Bowl. Detmer was knocked out of the game against Texas A&M, suffering two separated shoulders that required off-season surgery.
Detmer was considered too small to play in the pros, and was selected in the ninth round, 230th overall by Green Bay in the 1992 draft. He backed up Brett Favre for four seasons, seeing limited action before moving on to Philadelphia in 1996, where he stayed for two years. Then it was on for one year in San Francisco backing up Steve Young, two in Cleveland, though he started just two games in 1999 before giving way to rookie Tim Couch, then injured his Achilles, missing all of 2000. Following that, he spent three years in Detroit, and two years in Atlanta backing up Mike Vick and Matt Schaub. Career Stats: 546 of 946 (57.7%), 6351 yards, 34 TD, 35 INT.
Chris Weinke, Florida State, 2000: Another Seminole QB winner, another bomb. Weinke was 28 when he won the Heisman, a direct result of trying minor league baseball in the early nineties. Turns out, he was mediocre at TWO sports. In 2000, he led the nation in passing with 4167 yards, and led the Seminoles to their third straight national title game appearance. They were throttled by Oklahoma 13-2. Weinke was 32-3 at Florida State.
Weinke was selected 106th overall by Carolina in the 2001 draft and was thrust in the starting role. The team went 1-15, dropping 15 straight after winning the opener. He was replaced as starter in 2002 by Rodney Peete, then held a clipboard for all of 2003 and 2004. It was not until 2005 that he would see the field again, following an injury to Jake Delhomme. His next start would be December 2006 in a game the Panthers would drop to the Giants 27-13, though Weinke did set a Panthers record with 423 passing yards. He owns the NFL mark for consecutive losses as a starting QB with 15, and was 0-10 at home as a member of the Panthers. Just yesterday, he was signed by the 49ers due to QB injuries to Alex Smith and Trent Dilfer. Career Stats: 373 of 687 (54.3%), 3800 yards, 14 TD, 26 INT