Winning the Heisman trophy in college does not guarantee success at the next level in the NFL. Alot of teams are “hopeful” when they are evaluating the potential of a Heisman trophy winner transitioning into a solid professional. With all the hype and heightened expectations of Robert Griffin III in Washington, I thought it would be a good idea to research how successful past Heisman winners have been once they became a Washington Redskin.
1950- Vic Janowicz, RB, Ohio State
Won Heisman as a Junior. Known as a triple threat player…(RB, QB and Kicker)
Janowicz was drafted in the 7th round of the 1952 draft in which he opted not to play for the Redskins but to try his hand in the MLB with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After two seasons in the Major League as a back-up, Washington said,”Hey, We’ll start you at Running back if you want to play football again!”
Janowicz joined the Redskins late in the 1954 season and played the 1955 season as the starter. Little did he know, this would be his last season as a professional athlete. During 1956 training camp, Vic was involved in a tragic car accident, causing major brain damage and partially paralyzing him. His career stats: 410 yards averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 7 touchdowns.
1961- Ernie Davis, RB, Syracuse
Perhaps the most controversal draft and trade of all time. Ernie Davis was the first African American Heisman trophy winner and arguably one of the best running backs in NCAA history. But yet, with the first pick in the 1962 NFL draft, the Redskins selected and traded away Ernie Davis to the Browns. This trade brought eventual Hall of Famer, Bobby Mitchell, to Washington and teamed up two of the former Syracuse greats (Jim Brown, Ernie Davis). Davis was diagnosed with Leukemia and became too ill to continue his stellar career. Davis eventually passed away before his rookie campaign got a chance to begin. Due to the sudden death of Ernie Davis before he was even able to take a NFL snap and the acquisition of eventual hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, the Redskins came up on the better part of the trade by default.
1966- Steve Spurrier, QB, Florida
Spurrier was a Heisman award winning quarterback for the Florida Gators in 1966. Though he did not play for Washington, he was the head ball coach for the Redskins from 2002-2003. This would be Spurrier’s first and only NFL head coaching position as he came to terms that he is best fit for the college game. His 12-20 record as the Redskins ball coach showed no promise or signs of success to build from.
1980- George Rogers, RB, South Carolina
George Rogers was the 1980 Heisman Trophy winning running back but is known as the guy drafted before Lawrence Taylor. Rogers was not drafted by Washington. (New Orleans Saints, #1 Overall -1981) he joined the Redskins in 1985 as Redskins great, John Riggins was nearing the end of his career. Rogers filled in as best as you can expect for a running back replacing Riggo! Rogers made the Pro Bowl one season and was a part of the Super Bowl XXII Champion Redskins that beat Denver 42-10 in 1987. Injuries forced Rogers into retirement in 1987, making his reign in DC three years. It’s hard to say that his time in DC wasn’t satisfactory because he helped bring home a Super Bowl, but three years is not a career. With that being said, Rogers did successfully become the first productive Heisman winner in Redskins history.
1991- Desmond Howard, WR, Michigan
Depending on what part of Washington you are in, you are not allowed to mention Desmond Howard. You would think that after winning a Super Bowl, that having a top 10 pick would be like getting a brand new car for Christmas! That was not even close to what happened after drafting Howard. Not only did we waste the #4 pick to draft him, but we traded the #6 and #28 pick to get the #4 pick. Besides Howard leaving, the only positive I can get from his stay in Washington is that I shared a birthday with a Redskin. (May 15th) Please feel free to put this day in your calendar to help me celebrate next year!
1996- Danny Wuerffel, QB, Florida
Wuerffel was the 1996 Heisman trophy winning quarterback from the Florida Gators. Being the quarterback for Steve Spurrier during that time, it was no surprise that Spurrier turned to Wuerffel to lead his team when he made the jump to the NFL. However, neither Wuerffel or Spurrier experienced the same success that they shared at Florida. There was nothing notable about Wuerffel’s tenure as a Redskin and he became the latest Heisman failure for the franchise.
2011- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
That brings us to Mr. Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman winning quarterback out of Baylor University. Were the Redskins thinking about the past failures when they were scouting and considering drafting Griffin? Does becoming a Washington Redskin with the prestigious college accolades earned, set him up for failure in burgundy and gold? Is Griffin the next in line to add his cleats to the Redskins Hall of shame? Will the pressure of transitioning from a NCAA superstar to a NFL franchise player prove to be too much to handle?
My answer is no.
Griffin showed us from the very beginning that he wasn’t afraid of any moment when he caught our attention with his “No pressure, No diamonds” shirt. That shows that he understands that hard work is necessary to obtain the finer things in life. To win the Super Bowl Diamond requires a team to shoulder enormous amounts of pressure and if you fold, you will fail. I strongly believe that this Heisman “hopeful” will transition perfectly into his professional shoes and lead the Redskins to a career filled with nothing but glory days.