By Kyle Galdeira | December 6, 2018
For a stretch during the early 2000s, winning the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback represented the peak of one’s career in the pocket.
One would assume that earning the Heisman accolade would translate to success at the NFL level, but for passers like Chris Weinke (2000), Eric Crouch (2001), Jason White (2003), Matt Leinart (2004), Troy Smith (2006) and Tim Tebow (2007), brief tenures in the professional ranks led to backup roles and eventual transitions into new careers – including roles in broadcasting and minor league baseball. In recent years, Robert Griffin III (2011) and Johnny Manziel (2012) have become members of the “flame out” club, in contrast to Carson Palmer (2002) and Sam Bradford (2008) who went on to enjoy lengthy NFL careers.
The good news for Heisman Trophy finalists Tua Tagovailoa, Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins is that recent winners of the iconic trophy have enjoyed sustained, and in many cases immediate, success at the NFL level. Cam Newton (2010) is still running strong at the helm of the Carolina Panthers, while Jameis Winston is an uber-talented (pun intended) gunslinger whose major hurdles have come via off-the-field transgressions.
Tagovailoa could model his professional career after fellow Saint Louis Crusader Marcus Mariota (2014), as well as Lamar Jackson (2016) and Baker Mayfield (2017). Like Tua, these quarterbacks can sling it, while also bouncing out of and through the pocket to pick up yards in bunches on the ground when necessary.
In Murray’s case, the gunslinger will join the Oakland Athletics organization after the baseball team drafted him over the summer, and awarded the multi-sport star with nearly $5 million just to sign on the dotted line. He faced a similar situation as the one tackled by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, and Murray chose to go the baseball route – one that is seemingly safer and more attractive due to guaranteed contracts.
While Saturday’s Heisman Trophy announcement is surrounded by a building buzz and increasing drama, there is still plenty of work to be done by the winner and his fellow finalists if they hope to dial up long-term success in the NFL.