When Was the Last Time a Wide Receiver Won the Heisman Trophy and Who Was It?

Over the last three decades, quarterbacks and running backs have dominated the Heisman Trophy ceremony year after year. Wide receivers seemingly can’t win the prestigious award unless they have a super-human statistical season.

But the long-standing wide receiver drought finally has a chance to end this year. DeVonta Smith, the star WR from Alabama, is the heavy favorite to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy heading into the ceremony Tuesday night. If he does, Smith will become the first wideout to hoist the bronze trophy in nearly 30 years.

DeVonta Smith is the favorite to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy

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Remember Tua Tagovailoa’s game-winning touchdown pass in overtime of the national championship against Georgia? The quarterback received all the credit for leading Alabama to a comeback victory in the title game, but the man on the other end of that pass is finally getting his due praise.

DeVonta Smith, who caught that game-winning pass in 2018, established himself at the top of Alabama’s WR depth chart this season, and he didn’t disappoint. Smith has recorded 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns this year. Incredibly, Smith led the entire NCAA in all three categories in 2020. He also added a rushing touchdown and a punt-return score.

Heading into the Heisman ceremony on Tuesday night, Smith is the prohibitive -1,000 favorite to lift the trophy, according to DraftKings.

Quarterbacks and running backs have won every Heisman Trophy this century

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In the new age of college football, you almost have no chance of winning the Heisman Trophy if you aren’t an elite quarterback or running back. The explosion of the spread offense has made offenses reliant on spreading the ball around on the outside and feeding a single running back up the middle.

Over the last two decades, 17 quarterbacks have secured the Heisman Trophy. Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram, and Reggie Bush are the only other players to win the award during that span, and Bush’s win was later vacated. Quarterbacks have won the Heisman in nine of the past 10 years.

The two positions even dominated the award prior to 2000. Dating back to 1992, quarterbacks and running backs have won all but one Heisman Trophy. Charles Woodson (1997) was the only non-QB or RB to win the award during that span.

Desmond Howard was the last wide receiver to win the Heisman

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It’s extremely rare for a wide receiver to even be invited to the Heisman ceremony nowadays, let alone win the trophy. The last WR to win the award was Desmond Howard for Michigan all the way back in 1991.

During the 1991 season, Howard recorded 62 catches for 985 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also scored two rushing touchdowns and two special teams touchdowns, capped off by a 92-yard punt-return score against Ohio State late in the year. Howard famously etched his name in the college football history books by striking the Heisman pose after finding the end zone.

DeVonta Smith could become the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Howard in 1991. 29 years! Smith had far better stats this season than Howard did in his Heisman-winning campaign too. He surely deserves it this year.

All stats courtesy of Sports Reference