Class Act

Tebow could become first sophomore Heisman winner

Dec. 7, 2007

By Adam Caparell



Adam is's football editor and national football writer.
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George Rogers didn't think he'd ever see one. Neither did Mike Rozier. But Saturday the two Heisman Trophy winners could very well watch history when the 73rd winner of the most prestigious award in college sports is announced.

With Florida quarterback Tim Tebow considered the favorite to win the Heisman, for the first time since it was given out by the Downtown Athletic Club in 1935, a sophomore could be the recipient of the award given to college football's most outstanding player.


"He's got to be awfully good," said George Rogers, the 1980 Heisman winner out of South Carolina. "If he could do it two years in a row, I could see a sophomore win it. I think I won it because of the years I played. Not because of the year [I had]."




Tebow appears to be the favorite because he's had not only an awfully good year, but a year for the ages.


The 20-year old, who is playfully referred to as Superman by many Gators fans, became the first quarterback in history to throw for 20 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns in one season. His 22 rushing touchdowns are not only a Florida record, but have him tied for third in the country, and his passer rating of 177.9 is the second best in the nation. He's thrown for 29 touchdowns, 3,132 yards, just six interceptions and is completing 68.5 percent of his passes.


"Typically it won't, but if he's having an outstanding season, absolutely," 1995 Heisman winner Eddie George said of a sophomore's chances of winning. "It's possible, it's absolutely possible."


Thursday night, Tebow was lavished with two awards, taking home the Maxwell Award, given to the nation's top all-around player, and the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's top quarterback. But winning the Maxwell, an award some might call the poor man's Heisman, doesn't necessarily equate to Heisman success. It's been eight years since the Maxwell winner - Ron Dayne in 1999 - also took home the Heisman.


It looks like Tebow could buck a few trends Saturday with a win, but if he doesn't, chances are Arkansas running back Darren McFadden would be the Heisman winner and Tebow would in all likelihood finish second. Second, actually, is a familiar position for many sophomores throughout recent Heisman history.


In the past decade, several sophomores have finished second in the Heisman voting. McFadden did it last year, coming in second behind Ohio State senior quarterback Troy Smith. So did Larry Fitzgerald, the Pittsburgh wide receiver, who lost out to Oklahoma junior quarterback Jason White in 2003, as did Rex Grossman, the Florida quarterback, who lost to Nebraska senior quarterback Eric Crouch in a hotly contested vote in 2001.


And to top those results, we nearly saw a freshman win the award. Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson burst onto the scene in 2004 and finished second behind USC quarterback Matt Leinart, a junior.


So while some Heisman winners thought they'd never see an underclassman win, others figured it was only a matter of time.


"I think we could see a sophomore who could win the Heisman," said Johnny Rodgers, the 1972 winner from Nebraska. "It's equivalent to Archie [Griffin] winning the Heisman because he won it as a junior and freshmen didn't play then."


And since every Heisman winner gets to vote for the award each year, they take their ballot very seriously.


"I think the good thing is at least we have Heisman winners who get the chance to vote whereas I'm in pro football's Hall of Fame and previous inductees don't have any say in it," said Pittsburgh's 1972 winner, Tony Dorsett. "Who am I to say, but I like the idea that we, as a fraternity, get an opportunity to cast our votes. Pretty much, we feel that we've been there and done it, so we feel we know who needs to be a part of the family. For the most part, I think the guys who have won it have been very deserving."


So will Tebow be deserving? Some winners will say yes.


"Sophomore has nothing to do with it," said Doug Flutie, the 1984 winner out of Boston College. "Tim would be very deserving."


Others might say no and cast their ballot for another candidate.


Rozier, the 1983 Heisman-winning running back from Nebraska, said that class standing was something he took into consideration when casting his ballot in years past, and that he might be reluctant to vote for an underclassman.


If Tebow does win, that means he'll be gunning to become just the second two-time winner during his junior season in 2008. Only Griffin pulled off the feat for Ohio State in 1974-75 and while many might thought they'd never see a sophomore win the award, nearly all think Griffin's record is safe.


"I don't think you'll see more guys who won it twice," Rozier said. "Not as long as I'm voting."