College football hasn’t had many players win the Heisman Trophy from the side trying to stop the scoring. Since the two-platoon system was allowed in college football beginning in the 1940’s, only two players have won the award that played regularly defensively, and neither was only on the field for getting stops.
Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan will attempt to change that on Saturday as the Michigan defensive end is one of four players nominated to win the 2021 Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football. But the odds are certainly stacked against him, both in the betting lines at DraftKings Sportsbook and historically.
Ernie Davis played both ways for the Syracuse Orange in 1961, winning the award as both a running back and a linebacker. While the stats weren’t quite as conclusive defensively in that era, Davis did finish the season with 150 carries for 823 yards, as well as 16 catches for 157 yards receiving and 14 total touchdowns. Not bad for a guy that was playing both ways when most players weren’t.
The most famous example is Charles Woodson, who was a lockdown cornerback, a wide receiver, and a kick returner for the national champion Michigan Wolverines in 1997. He had a punt return for a touchdown, caught 11 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for a score as well.
He also had seven interceptions at cornerback, which is incredible considering no one threw to his side of the field, and threw a pass that garnered 28 yards as well. It was an incredible season that landed him as the fourth overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
But since we’ve gone to the two-platoon system, no exclusive defender has won the Heisman Trophy.