Five Heisman WInners Set For NFL Playoffs

Desmond Howard

Five Heisman Trophy winners will suit up in the NFL Playoffs that begin on Saturday, trying to join the exclusive list of Heisman winners who played in the Super Bowl and the smaller list of those that won a ring.

On Saturday, second-year stater Joe Burrow (2019) will lead the upstart Cincinnati Bengals against the Las Vegas Raiders, which features Marcus Mariota (2014) as a backup QB who has seen action as a running threat in recent weeks.

On Sunday, rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith (2020) will make his NFL playoff debut against defending champion Tampa Bay while Kyler Murray (2018) will lead Arizona into Monday night’s matchup at Los Angeles.

Tennessee star running back Derrick Henry (2015) -is expected to make his return since his mid-season injury in next’s second round following the Titans’ bye. He finished ninth in the NFL in rushing yards (937) despite missing the final seven games of the regular season.

The playoff action will be the first for Murray, Burrow and of course Smith. Mariota and Henry led Tennessee to the AFC title game in 2020 and to the second round in 2018 while Henry played in a first-round loss in 2021.

The last Heisman winner to play in a Super Bowl was 2010 winner Cam Newton when he led Carolina to Super Bowl 50 in 2016. Prior to that, the last to play in it was Charles Woodson in Green Bay’s 2011 win in Super Bowl XLV. 

In fact, winning Super Bowl teams have featured a Heisman winner on the roster only nine times.

The last Heisman winner to claim a ring before Woodson was fellow Packer Desmond Howard, who earned MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 thanks to his 99-yard kickoff return for a score. He is the only special teams player to win the MVP honor.

George Rogers won a Super Bowl with Washington in 1988. Marcus Allen and Jim Plunkett led the Raiders to a win in 1984 while Plunkett guided Oakland to a 1981 Super Bowl victory.

Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett joined forces to lead Dallas to the 1978 Super Bowl title while Staubach and the Cowboys also won in 1972. Mike Garrett and John Huarte were part of the 1970 Kansas City team that won the NFL title while Paul Hornung’s Green Bay Packers downed Garrett’s Chiefs in the first NFL title game in 1967.

Howard is one of four Heisman winners to pick up Super Bowl MVP honors, joining Allen (1984), Plunkett (1981) and Staubach (1972).

Click here for a further look back at Heisman winners who reach the Super Bowl.