The Only Heisman-Winning Football Player to Play in the NBA

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Charlie Ward of the Florida State Seminoles runs the ball downfield

Winning the Heisman Trophy is one of the most prestigious awards a college athlete can earn. It is given to the best college football player in the country, and many of its winners go on to have successful NFL careers.

There is one athlete who stands out above the rest, however; the former Florida State Seminoles’ Charlie Ward is the only Heisman Trophy winner to play in the NBA, too. His journey through two pro sports is fascinating.

Winning the Heisman Trophy

During the 1993 college football season, Ward put up phenomenal numbers for the Seminoles. He threw for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Ward was also a threat on the ground, rushing for 340 yards and averaging five yards per carry.

Florida State was dominant all season long on their way to the national championship. Concerning the Heisman Trophy, Ward won by a landslide, receiving 740 first-place votes.

Making the jump to the NBA

Ward wasn’t projected as a high pick in the 1994 NFL Draft, but he was a hot commodity heading into the NBA Draft. The starting point guard for the Seminoles (after football season ended), Ward helped them reach the Elite Eight, averaging 10 points and five assists per game. 

In 1994, the New York Knicks selected Ward with the No. 24 pick in the NBA draft. While he didn’t play much as a rookie, he carved out an excellent role with the team. For his career, Ward averaged six points and four assists. He made the playoffs six consecutive seasons with the Knicks and seven total for his career.

Where is Charlie Ward now?

Since 2018, Ward has been the Ambassador of Football for Florida State. He also became the head coach of Florida State University’s Developmental Research School, Florida High in Tallahassee. The school has shown an immediate improvement under Ward and is one of the top team’s in the state. What can’t this guy do?

Can it be done again?

Would it be possible for another football player to make his way into the NBA? We think the rigors of college football at key positions would be tough to transition into basketball. Ward looks like he will be the lone commodity of college football stars who head to the NBA. 

Two-sport Heisman Trophy winners

When you think of a two-sport star who excelled on the football field, Bo Jackson should be the first person who comes to mind. A beast at Auburn, he ran for 17 touchdowns and 1,786 yards as a senior in 1985. He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1986 NFL Draft, but opted to play baseball instead. Jackson began with the Kansas City Royals and was named to the All-Star Game in 1989 while hitting 32 home runs.

Another famous two-sport athlete is last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray. A top-10 pick with the Oakland Athletics, it looked like his final season at Oklahoma would be the last football season of his career.  However, Murray became an offensive sensation, winning the Heisman Trophy. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, spurning the Athletics in the process.