The most prestigious award in all of college football is the Heisman Trophy. Awarded annually to the NCAA’s best player, it represents the pinnacle of individual achievement. Most of the time, the award goes to an offensive player (namely, a quarterback). It rarely goes to a defensive player. In fact, defensive players seldom even make it to the top 10.
In 2012, Jadeveon Clowney bucked this trend and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Let’s take a closer look at Clowney and three other defensive linemen who received Heisman Trophy votes.
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
- Year: 2012
- Heisman voting finish: Sixth
Clowney finished his college career with 24 sacks and three solid seasons. His best came in 2012, his sophomore year, when he had 13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for a loss, 129 total tackles, and three forced fumbles. He finished sixth in Heisman voting. Clowney’s season was so outstanding that finishing only as high as sixth shows just how far it favors offensive players.
Don’t cry for him, however. The Houston Texans made Clowney the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2014. Now, he’s a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
Jonathan Allen, Alabama
- Year: 2016
- Heisman voting finish: Seventh
For much of its history — especially since Nick Saban took over more than a decade ago — Alabama has drawn the nation’s top talent. At no position is that truer than on the defensive line. From 2013 to 2016, Jonathan Allen was the latest in a long line of great defensive linemen from Alabama.
In 2016, he had 16 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, and 69 total tackles. He also returned a fumble and an interception for touchdowns. Allen’s 28 career sacks leave him at sixth all-time for the SEC, a conference with no shortage of talent. He now finds himself on the Washington Redskins, where he’s shown potential but has yet to break out.
Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
- Year: 2009
- Heisman voting finish: Fourth
He’s a great NFL player who’s known to take a cheap shot or two. During his run at Nebraska, Ndamukong Suh was known as an absolutely unstoppable force as a pass rusher. Suh had a legendary career as a Cornhusker. His most devastating season was 2009, when he finished with 20.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, 85 total tackles, and an interception.
While Suh finished an impressive fourth in the Heisman voting, that season he would not miss out on some serious hardware. Along with being named an All-American, take a look at some of his awards in 2009:
- The Chuck Bednarik Award for national defensive player of the year
- The John Outland Trophy for most outstanding interior lineman
- The Vince Lombardi Award for lineman of the year
- The AP Player of the Year Award
- The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year
- The Bronko Nagurski Award for the nation’s most outstanding defensive player
Warren Sapp, Miami
- Year: 1994
- Heisman voting finish: Sixth
University of Miami football may not be the behemoth it once was, but in the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s, it was a dominant force in college football. One of its brightest stars was Warren Sapp. Along with being named an All-American, Sapp was the school’s first Lombardi ward winner. Sapp went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.