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Heisman Milestones and Firsts Through the Years

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Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy on Friday, adding another milestone to one of the most storied awards in sports.

From the first African-American to win the award, to the first sophomore, to the first West Coast winner, the milestones achieved during the Heisman’s roll call of 78 winners have reshaped the award.

Here’s a look at the key milestones in the history of the Heisman and a hint of awards that could follow with Manziel earning the first Trophy for a freshman.

1935: The first Heisman.
Chicago’s Jay Berwanger is acknowledged as the first Heisman winner in 1935, but the award he won was the DAC Trophy, presented by Manhattan’s Downtown Athletic Club. The statue, modeled after New York University football player Ed Smith, was the same as it’s always been.

1936: The first Heisman, really.
The Downtown Athletic Club renamed its award to honor recently deceased coach John W. Heisman. Yale’s Larry Kelley in 1936 was the first to win the Heisman Trophy under its new name.

1938: Smallest Heisman winner.
At 5-foot-7, TCU quarterback Davey O’Brien became the smallest Heisman winner. (And before someone chimes in about Doug Flutie, the Boston College quarterback was 5-10.)

1943: Notre Dame’s first winner.
Angelo Bertelli became Notre Dame’s first of seven Heisman winners, giving the Irish the most individuals with a trophy. Ohio State has won the award seven times, but two went to Archie Griffin. USC also has seven winners, but Reggie Bush had his award vacated. Notre Dame’s Heisman winners are: John Lujack (1947), Leon Hart (1949), John Lattner (1953), Paul Hornung (1956), John Huarte (1964) and Tim Brown (1987).

Army's Doc Blanchard (left) wtih coach Red Blaik and teammate Glenn Davis.

1945: The first non-senior winner.
Army’s “Mr. Inside” (Felix “Doc” Blanchard) and “Mr. Outside” (Glenn Davis) were both juniors when they finished atop the balloting, but Blanchard became the first junior to win the award. Davis won the Heisman a year later as a senior.

1956: Only winner from a losing team.
Notre Dame went 2-8 in 1956, but that didn’t stop Paul Hornung from winning the trophy in a heated race. Hornung didn’t earn the most first-place votes -- that belonged to third-place finisher Tom McDonald from Oklahoma. Future Tennessee coach Johnny Majors was the runner-up, but none of those three were the most legendary football player of the group. That honor belongs to fifth-place finisher Jim Brown of Syracuse.

1961: First African-American winner.
Syracuse running back Ernie Davis broke the Heisman’s color barrier in 1961. The Elmira Express was set to join Jim Brown in the Cleveland Browns backfield, but Davis died suddenly of leukemia in 1963.

1962: First West Coast winner.
Prior to Oregon State quarterback Terry Baker winning the Heisman in 1962, the Western-most Heisman winners came from TCU, SMU, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. After Baker, four of the next eight winners would come from states West of the Rocky Mountains.

1963: Last winner from a service academy.
Navy’s Roger Staubach was the fifth and final Heisman winner from a service academy. Three former players from Army and two from Navy won the award.

1968: The first second Heisman.
Starting in 1968, the Heisman elected to award two trophies: One to the individual winner and another to the winner’s school. In the event of a trophy being vacated, both awards would be taken away.

1968: Biggest Heisman landslide.
USC’s O.J. Simpson won the 1968 Heisman by what remains the biggest margin.  Runner-up Leroy Keyes of Purdue finished 1,750 points behind Simpson’s 2,853.

1975: Only repeat winner.
Though others would attempt to defend their Heisman victories, Ohio State’s Archie Griffin is the only player to successfully to do so. Griffin won both the 1974 and 1975 awards by more than 1,000 points.

1989: Only winner on an NCAA-sanctioned team.
Houston’s Andre Ware is the last Heisman winner who did not play in a bowl game as his 9-2 Cougars were on NCAA probation. Making the voting more perplexing, Ware’s team was under a television ban.

Florida's Danny Wuerffel on a 1995 Athlon annual cover.

1996: Only Heisman winner to coach a Heisman winner.
Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel won the ’96 Heisman coached by the man who won the Heisman 30 years earlier from the same school, Steve Spurrier. The Ol’ Ball Coach also coached a Heisman runner-up in 2001 in Rex Grossman.

1997: First defensive player.
Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson became the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman in ’97. Prior to Woodson, other defensive winners came from the one-platoon era when players participated on offense and defense. Woodson was not a purely defensive player, as he contributed a handful of plays on offense and returned kicks. Making Woodson’s victory contentious with fans (especially in the Southeast) was his runner-up, Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.

2000. Oldest Heisman winner.
Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, a former minor league baseball player, became the oldest Heisman winner at age 28.

2007: The first sophomore winner.
Florida’s Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman in 2007. He would be a finalist as a junior and senior, but was beat out both years -- by sophomores.

2009: The closest Heisman race.
Mark Ingram won Alabama’s first Heisman by the closest margin in Heisman history, beating Stanford’s Toby Gerhart by merely 28 points. Ingram, then a sophomore, was also the youngest Heisman winner at 19 years old.

2010: Only vacated Heisman.
USC running back Reggie Bush won the 2005 Heisman, but the Heisman Trust ordered both he and the Trojans were ordered to return their trophies as a result of NCAA sanctions on the school stemming from Bush’s relationship with a marketing agent.

2012: The first freshman winner.
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman, by topping a purely defensive player (Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o) for the award. As a 20-year-old redshirt freshman, Manziel is not the youngest player to win the Heisman -- Alabama’s Mark Ingram retains that title. And the Heisman has yet to have a player finish one season in high school and the next hoisting the trophy.