In 1892, John Heisman had no idea his name would become synonymous with one of the sporting world’s most prestigious awards. According to Heisman.com he went to school to become lawyer, but instead coached football at Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Rice, University of Pennsylvania, and Washington and Jefferson.
The first recipient was chosen in 1936 and ever since then the Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.
For 2015, the race for the trophy appears to be wide open with most of the season complete. Here are some of the top contenders for the Heisman Memorial Trophy to be presented Dec. 12 at the Downtown Athletic Club.
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Henry vaulted to the front of the list after outperforming Leonard Fournette in a head-to-head matchup with LSU Nov. 7. He followed up with 204 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns against Mississippi State. “Henry’s speed and size make him tough to tackle when he gets a full head of steam,” according to BleacherReport.com. “He’s liable to break off big runs at any given moment with his one-cut ability and physical gifts.”
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
For much of the 2015 season, Fournette looked like a man among boys. Prior to the season, Mike Huguenin, writing for NFL.com, projected Fournette would finish sixth in the balloting and amass as many as 1,500 yards. He easily surpassed those expectations. With three games to go in the regular season he has 1,474 yards to lead the NCAA and was averaging 6.9 years per carry.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Although Coleman is a legitimate contender, the all-time list of Heisman winners includes only three wide receivers. The last was Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. Coleman had more first-place votes (5) this week than any other candidate, but finished third in total points (30) in large part because he was left entirely off of three ballots.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Watson is the best player on the country’s top-ranked team. Against Florida State (a team he had never beaten), he racked up 404 yards total offense, including a career-high 107 rushing yards. He also had career-highs in completions (28) and attempts (42) in the convincing win. He followed that up by throwing for 360 yards and rushing for 105 yards against Syracuse.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
When the Buckeyes beat Minnesota, Ezekiel Elliott topped 100 yards rushing for the 14th straight game. He is in the top 10 in rushing yards (138.2 per game), rushing TDs (14) and all-purpose yards (158.4). Ohio State has a couple big games still on the schedule. Elliott could help his case by finishing the season strong.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
McCaffrey leads the nation in all-purpose yards with 241 yards a game after Week 11. Against Colorado, he threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper. Unfortunately, while his rushing stats are strong, they are well below those of others on this list. And Stanford’s loss to Oregon didn’t help, even though McCaffrey had a great game.
Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Trevone Boykin was one of the preseason and early season favorites for this year’s Heisman. His chances took a big hit, though, when he threw four interceptions in the Horned Frogs’ loss to Oklahoma State. Then in the next game against Kansas, he was injured early and had to leave the game. Whether he can rebound in TCU’s tough final two games will be critical.
The remaining games this season include many with conference title and bowl championship implications. There is still time for these and other candidates to turn in strong performances to bolster their cases. Information on other athletes under consideration for this year’s award is available at Heisman.com.