QB | RS Junior | University of Southern California
Leinart became USC’s sixth Heisman winner — and second in three years — after winning the Heisman in 2004.
The 6-5, 225-pound quarterback led USC to an undefeated season, as the Trojans becamse only the second team to go wire to wire as No. 1 in the polls.
Leinart was born in Santa Ana, California with strabismus (“crossed eyes”), with his left eye not aligned correctly with his right. He underwent surgery when he was three years old and was fitted with special glasses to correct the problem. Despite this obstacle, Leinart blossomed into a highly-rated quarterback while playing at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana (the same school attended by 1964 Heisman winner John Huarte). He was named the California Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, throwing for 2,870 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Leinart considered Oklahoma but signed with USC in 2001. He redshirted his first season and barely got on the field as a redshirt freshman, playing as one of Heisman winner Carson Palmer’s backups.
After winning a hard-fought battle in the spring of 2003 for the starting job, he burst onto the scene as a redshirt sophomore, throwing for 3,556 yards and a then-Pac-10 record 38 touchdowns as the Trojans won the 2003 national title. Leinart finished sixth in the Heisman vote and entered the 2004 season as the front runner for the award.
Leinart had another fine year, passing for 2,990 yards and 28 TDs with just 6 interceptions, while also rushing for three TDs. More importantly, he led the Trojans to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the BCS title game. The Trojan quarterback beat out Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson and Jason White, Utah’s Alex Smith and teammate Reggie Bush to win the trophy.
He showed it was no fluke in the BCS title game as he threw for 332 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Trojans to a 55-19 win over Oklahoma, clinching a second-straight national title.
Leinart decided to stay in school for one more season in an attempt to win a third-straight title and a record-tying second Heisman in 2005. Despite throwing for 3,815 yards and 28 touchdowns, he finished third in the vote behind Reggie Bush and Vince Young (Bush’s Heisman has since been vacated).
He was selected 10th overall in the 2006 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He also had stints with the Houston Texans, the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills before settling in as a college football commentator for Fox Sports.