Texas Christian University

O'Brien won TCU's first Heisman while leading his team to an undefeated season. He is the smallest player to win the Heisman and the first Heisman winner from the Southwest Conference.

Heisman Winner

Davey O’Brien

QB | Senior | Texas Christian University

O’Brien won TCU’s first Heisman while leading his team to an undefeated season. He is the smallest player to win the Heisman at 5-7, 151 pounds and the first Heisman winner from the Southwest Conference.

O’Brien was born in Dallas, Texas. He attended and played high school football at Woodrow Wilson High (later attended by 1987 Heisman winner Tim Brown). While there, he was an All-State selection and led his team to the Texas state playoffs in 1932.

Texas Christian was his school of choice, where coach Dutch Meyer had built a reputation for his pass-heavy “double wing” offense. After backing up Sammy Baugh, O’Brien became the starting quarterback as a 1937 junior and passed for 947 yards and five touchdowns as TCU went 4-4-2.

He exploded as a 1938 senior, completing 93 of 166 passes for 1,509 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He also ran for 462 yards and had six interceptions for 85 yards on defense. For his efforts, he won the Heisman over Marshall Goldberg of Pittsburgh.

A good runner and punter, he was an outstanding selector of plays. After a brilliant 15-7 Sugar Bowl victory over Carnegie Tech, in which he kicked a field goal and threw a touchdown pass, the Philadelphia Eagles recruited him with a $12,000 bonus and a two-year contract.

In his first season, O’Brien passed for 1,324 yards, breaking Sammy Baugh’s record. In his second season, he completed a still unchallenged record of 33 out of 60 passes against the Redskins.

O’Brien retired to become an FBI agent and followed that stint in the early ’50s by becoming a business executive. He was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1955.

He died on November 18, 1977.

More Articles About Davey O’Brien

Heisman Voting Results

Number of electors: 584 - Announced: November 28, 1938.

 PlayerClassPositionSchoolTotal Points
1Davey O'BrienSRQBTexas Christian519
2Marshall GoldbergSRRBPittsburg294
3Sid LuckmanSRQBColumbia154
4Bob MacLeodSRHBDartmouth78
5Vic BottariSRRBCalifornia67
6Howard WeissSRFBWisconsin60
7George CafegoJRTBTennessee55
8Ki AldrichSRCTexas Christian48
9Whitey BeinorSRTNotre Dame47
10Dan HillSRCDuke38

Three points are awarded for first place on a ballot, with two points for second place and one point for third place. Finalists in bold.

Heisman Voting By Region

At this time, Heisman voters are spread out across five regions.


1Davey O'Brien
2Marshall Goldberg
3George Cafego


1Davey O'Brien
2Sid Luckman
3Marshall Goldberg


1Davey O'Brien
2Marshall Goldberg
3Howard Weiss


1Davey O'Brien
2Ki Aldrich
3Marshall Goldberg

Far West

1Davey O'Brien
3Marshall Goldberg


Davey O’Brien’s Heisman Year Statistics

DateOpponentResultAttCompPct.YdsYPATDIntRatingRushesYdsYPCTDPlaysTotal OffYPPTotal TDs
9/24/38CentenaryW 13-0221254.522810.412138.4212-24-2.000342046.001
10/1/38ArkansasW 21-1413430.7463.51085.8811575.180241034.291
10/8/38at TempleW 28-611545.416114.630258.407131.850181749.663
10/15/38at Texas A&MW 34-6201260.01799.030184.6814486.071342276.674
10/22/38at MarquetteW 21-0181161.117214.421166.937339.251251957.803
10/29/38BaylorW 39-7171058.82369.630233.6713475.570302839.433
11/5/38at TulsaW 21-010660.0828.211141.8816875.750261696.501
11/12/38TexasW 28-6241770.82369.810167.1812283.860362647.331
11/19/38at RiceW 29-7201260.01175.930158.641510912.531352266.454
11/26/38at SMUW 20-711436.3524.710130.3520641.580311163.741
Heisman StatsAP #110-01669356.015099.1194165.331274623.63329319716.7222
1/2/39+ #6 Carnegie TechW 15-7271762.92248.310144.87000.000272248.301
TotalsAP #111-019311056.917339.0204162.471274623.63332021956.8523

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O'Brien also had 7 interceptions for 85 yards (1 coming in the Sugar Bowl).