The Annual Reminder That The Heisman Fraternity Includes One Winner Who Played In The Final Four

With the 2024 NCAA Tournament beginning this week, we’re here with our annual reminder that the Heisman Trophy has a rich history of winners who excelled in hoops — in case anyone is googling it this week!

The answer to the trivia question of who is the only person to win a Heisman Trophy and make an appearance in the NCAA Final Four is, of course, 1962 Oregon State winner Terry Baker.

1962 Heisman winner Terry Baker helped lead Oregon State to the 1963 Final Four.

Baker helped the 1962-63 Beavers team reach the NCAA basketball Final Four thanks to three win against Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona State – en route to reaching the national semifinals, where Oregon State fell to Cincinnati (and consequently lost in the third-place game against Duke).

Baker averaged 13.4 points per game as a senior point guard and was named the 1962 national Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated, topping such sports heavyweights like Wilt Chamberlain, Sonny Liston and Bart Starr. 

Baker, in fact, originally went to Oregon State on a basketball scholarship and played three seasons for the Beavers basketball team. He also helped OSU reach the regional finals as a junior.

There was no rest for Baker between football and basketball. After leading the Beavers to a 6-0 win in the 1962 Liberty Bowl, where his NCAA record 99-yard TD run was the game’s only score in a 6-0 win, Baker had to return to Corvallis for a practice with the basketball team. Days later, he was fully into hoops season.

Charlie Ward is – of course – the only Heisman winner to play in the NBA. At Florida State, Ward was the point guard on the Seminoles team that advanced to the Elite Eight in 1993 — joining the basketball team just 15 days after winning the Heisman Trophy. He started 16 games at the point guard position that year and averaged 10.5 points and 4.9 assists for the season.

Charlie Ward at point guard for Florida State.

Other Heisman winners with success on the hardcourt include:

Nile Kinnick — The future Hawkeye led his football team to an undefeated season as a senior in high school, but he also scored 485 points for the basketball team, helping them advance to the district finals. At Iowa, he played football, basketball and baseball as a freshman and was the hoops team’s second-leading scorer as a sophomore. He then gave up basketball to concentrate on his studies…and football.

Tom Harmon — Harmon was an all-conference basketball player and three-year letterman at Horace Mann High in Gary, Ind. He also lettered in basketball at Michigan. He was inducted into the state of Indiana’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Glenn Davis — Perhaps the finest all-around athlete ever to play at Army, Davis earned a letter in basketball as a guard for the Knights.

John Lujack — Lujack lettered in four sports at Notre Dame, including basketball.

Doak Walker — The legendary Walker also lettered in basketball for SMU.

Dick Kazmaier — According to Kazmaier, he had a better year freshman year in basketball at Princeton than he did in football. He was relegated to the bench in subsequent years, but he would not be stopped when he stepped on the gridiron.

Paul Hornung — Hornung averaged 6.1 points per game as a sophomore for the Irish basketball team in 1954-55.

Joe Bellino — Bellino was the star of Winchester High’s basketball team, which won the Massachussetts state title during his sophomore and junior seasons. The squad’s 55-game win streak was snapped during his senior year. He later lettered in basketball for the Midshipmen.

Ernie Davis — Davis played basketball as a junior at Syracuse in the 1960-61 season. He put up impressive numbers, with 10.2 points and 9.6 rebounds in nine games, starting three times. He once pulled down 18 rebounds against Canisius. He also was the top player on Syracuse’s freshman team in 1958-59.

Steve Spurrier — Spurrier was all-state in four sports, including basketball, coming out of Science Hill High in Johnston, Tenn.