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How many defensive players have won the Heisman Trophy?

Defensive players hoisting the Heisman is an ultra rarity.

University of Michigan Charles Woodson, 1997 Heisman Memorial Trophy Award Ceremony

The 2022 Heisman Trophy will take place on Saturday and one of four finalists will permanently etch their names into college football history by taking home the award.

While the award in theory is given to the most outstanding player in the sport, there’s a curious lack of defensive players who have won it. In fact, through the 87-year history of the Heisman Trophy, the only primarily defensive player to win the award was Charles Woodson at Michigan in 1997.

The future NFL Hall of Famer was a lockdown cornerback for Wolverines but he also dabbled as wide receiver and a kick returner for the eventual AP national champions. He had seven interceptions at cornerback, which is incredible considering no one threw to his side of the field. However, it was his abilities as a jack of all trades that garnered him Heisman Trophy hype as he had a punt return for a touchdown, caught 11 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for a score as well. It was an incredible season that earned him Heisman honors over Peyton Manning and landed him as the fourth overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.

The award has been criticized as being just a quarterback award and that criticism has been backed up quarterbacks Caleb Williams, Max Duggan, C.J. Stroud, and Stetson Bennett IV comprising the entire finalist field this season. Former Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson did finish second in Heisman voting ago, so perhaps we’re slowly inching closer to the possibility of a defensive player winning the award.