The age of Heisman Trophy winners is a fascinating football trend. While most players who win the award are of typical college age — the lone exception being Florida State’s Chris Weinke at 28 years old — the years spent in college can help many mature into winners in their second, third, and fourth seasons.
A recent trend, however, shows that spending more time in college doesn’t necessarily help you win the award as players are more likely to win before they turn 20 years old. Nine years separate the oldest and youngest Heisman Trophy winners, but these five are the youngest to ever do so.
5. Archie Griffin: 20 years, 104 days
Archie Griffin is not only the only player in the history of college football to win the Heisman Trophy twice, but he’s also one of the youngest to ever win the award. One of the best running backs to ever play college football, Griffin rushed for almost 5,600 yards and amassed 26 touchdowns during his Ohio State career.
Although he was a big deal in college, Griffin failed to replicate that success, although his nine-year career shows that he maintained his value as a football player in the process.
4. Rashaan Salaam: 20 years, 63 days
In his third year at the University of Colorado, Rashaan Salaam became the fourth-youngest player in history to win the Heisman Trophy, and he earned it. His first two years were decent, but Salaam’s 1994 statistics were absurd. He rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns in 11 games during his junior season.
Unfortunately, Salaam had a short NFL career, playing in just 33 games with the Chicago Bears. He struggled with injuries and tragically took his own life in 2016 at the age of 42.
3. Mark Ingram: 19 years, 356 days
Mark Ingram’s sophomore campaign at Alabama turned more than a few heads. He showed promise during his first and third seasons at the football powerhouse, but it was his 2009 sophomore season when he made a name for himself. Ingram rushed for almost 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Since then, Ingram has endured a successful NFL career and made two Pro Bowls. He’s currently in his first season with the Baltimore Ravens, where another player on this list runs the offense.
2. Jameis Winston: 19 years, 342 days
Jameis Winston’s college career was marred with controversy, but his on-the-field play made him a frontrunner for the 2013 Heisman trophy from the second he stepped on the field. After throwing for nearly 8,000 yards and 65 touchdowns, the quarterback not only won the award his freshman season, but he also came in sixth the following year.
Now in his fifth NFL season, Winston has failed to live up to his superstar potential. Although he’s performed well, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only had one winning season since Winston took over as quarterback.
1. Lamar Jackson: 19 years, 337 days
Lamar Jackson was just a teenager when he won the award in 2016, and he came in third the following season. Not only did the quarterback throw for 9,000 yards and 69 touchdowns during his three years at Louisville, but he was also a danger on the rush, running for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Jackson broke out last year for the Baltimore Ravens with his multifaceted style, and it proved to be stifling for defenses. This year, he continues to grow, although questions linger about his arm.
Heisman Trophy winners are trending younger
It’s no coincidence that the three youngest players to win the Heisman Trophy did so in the last decade. The reason can likely be traced to two similar trends. First, teams are more willing to give the keys to an offense to younger players rather than let them sit on the bench for a year or two. Second, players are jumping on the opportunity in a sport where nothing is guaranteed.
Do not be surprised if more players join this list of the youngest Heisman Trophy winners. There’s no right way to develop a player. Some are ready at 18, others take a few years.