Every December, the best players in college football gather in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. After a night of highlights, interviews, and recognition of each college football player’s performances that season, one player receives the prestigious honor and joins an exclusive fraternity. This year, however, since it’s 2020, the Heisman ceremony will be considerably different from years past.
The Heisman Trophy and its storied history
The first Heisman Trophy ceremony occurred in 1935 and was created by the Downtown Athletic Club in New York for the purposes of recognizing the most valuable college football player east of the Mississippi. University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger was the first recipient of the award.
The rules for selection have changed through the years, most notably, the Mississippi River no longer factors into the decision. The finalists for each year’s award are based on the number of votes a player receives from voters, which consists of three categories.
Sports journalists, which include 870 members, are joined by previous Heisman winners (57 eligible), and fans voting through a survey collected by ESPN at NissanHeismanHouse.com.
Heisman Trophy has included some memorable moments
Through the years, the Heisman Trophy presentation has featured plenty of highlights. Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung won the award in 1956 and became the first player from a losing team to receive the honor. The Irish finished that season with a 2-8 record.
In 1961, Ernie Davis became the first Black player to win the award. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin was the first and only player to become a Heisman winner twice, winning in both 1974 and 1975. In 1997, Michigan’s Charles Woodson became the first defensive player to win the honor, edging out Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.
The last decade has seen a lot of firsts happen in New York City. In 2012, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first redshirt freshman to win. In 2017, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was the first former walk-on player to win the award, and a year later, Mayfield’s backup with the Sooners, Kyler Murray, won, making it the first time quarterbacks from the same school won the Heisman in back-to-back years.
LSU’s Joe Burrow won in 2019 and set all kinds of voting records receiving the highest percentage of first-place votes ever with 90.7% of the ballots and winning by the largest margin of victory.
This year’s ceremony will be unlike any other
Last year, an emotional Joe Burrow stood on stage and struggled to get through his acceptance speech. Those in attendance applauded in an attempt to show their support. If this year’s winning recipient breaks down, he won’t have that same type of support because the ceremony will be held under very different circumstances.
Similar to other sports-related events like the NFL Draft, this year’s Heisman Trophy presentation will be done virtually and will feature the finalists from their homes or schools. Several former winners will also appear virtually.
And unlike any previous ceremony, the event will take place after the new year. The newest member to the Heisman Trophy fraternity will be announced on Jan. 5, 2021, between the college football semifinals and the national championship game, a delay occurring due to the COVID-19 pandemic shifting championship week back to Dec. 19. Heisman finalists will be announced on Christmas Eve.
This year’s Heisman Trophy ceremony will be dramatically different than anything college players and fans have experienced. But all things considered, it will mean that a college football season was actually played. And given the situation just a few months ago, that’s a win.