One Year Ago Today, DeVonta Smith Became A Heisman Winner

One year ago today, DeVonta Smith won the 2020 Heisman Trophy / Photo by Kent Gidley

One year ago today, DeVonta Smith became the first wide receiver in almost three decades to win the Heisman Trophy, awarded college sport’s most eponymous statue following a dominant season in which he could hardly be stopped.

Announced as the 2020 winner during the Heisman Trophy Trust’s first virtual ceremony (necessary during the Covid pandemic’s first winter), Smith shared the moment from Crimson Tide headquarters in Tuscaloosa with fellow finalist and quarterback Mac Jones as well as head coach Nick Saban while Chris Fowler hosted the Heisman broadcast from ESPN’s Studio E in Bristol, Conn.

I’ve been doubted a lot just because of my size, and really it just comes down to you put your mind to it, you can do it,” Smith said from the Alabama Athletic Department that night. “No job is too big. If you put your mind to it, you can do it, and just keep believing in God, and you’ll get where you want to be.”

In 11 games (including the SEC championship), Smith led the country with 98 receptions and 1,511 receiving yards – the most by any Heisman winner in either category, topping the previous record holder, Desmond Howard (950 receiving yards on 61 receptions in 1991). 

Smith’s 17 TD catches – the second-most in a Heisman season behind Howard – and 137.4 receiving yards per game were both second-best nationally and his 8.9 receptions per game were tied for second best. 

Six days after winning the trophy, Smith teamed with Jones, Saban and the rest of the Crimson Tide to complete a perfect 13-0 season with a 52-24 win over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff title game, setting a CFP receiving record despite leaving early in the second half due to an injury.

In fact, Smith was named the game’s Offensive Player of the Game after posting a title-game record 12 catches to go with 215 yards and 3 TDs while helping the Crimson Tide to a 35-17 first-half lead.

With his CFP semifinal and final game output, Smith finished his Alabama senior season with a remarkable 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 TDs.

Smith was the first wide receiver to win a Heisman and a national title in the same season and the seventh player to win both while leading his team to an undefeated season. He was also the 17th player to win a Heisman and a national crown.

Capturing the Heisman on Jan. 5 was the start of a special 2021 for the humble Louisiana native. 

On May 3, Smith was drafted 10th in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2021 NFL Draft.

On Sept. 12, he made his NFL debut and caught six passes for 71 yards, including his first TD reception. Oct. 3 saw his first 100-yard receiving game, a 122-yard effort against Kansas City.

He celebrated his first birthday in the NFL – and as a Heisman winner – with his first two-TD-catch day on Nov. 14 in a win at Denver.

Smith caught his fifth TD pass in the Eagles’ final game of 2021 and then kicked off 2022 by helping Philadelphia clinch a playoff spot on Jan. 2.

His 875 receiving yards (on 61 receptions) are fourth-most of all NFL rookies and 30th overall in the NFL. 

He is also just 37 yards short of Philadelphia’s rookie receiving record set by DeSean Jackson in 2008 (912) and will have a chance to break it when the Eagles host the Cowboys on Saturday night. He also has a chance to become the Eagles’ first wide receiver with 1,000 yards since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.