Highlighting Our Heisman Hoop Heroes As The NCAA Tournament Kicks Off
With the 2022 NCAA Tournament kicking off today in earnest, let’s review the Heisman Trophy’s deep history in winners who also excelled in hoops.
The Heisman Trophy winner who made the deepest run in NCAA Tournament history is Oregon State’s 1961 winner Terry Baker – the only player to win a Heisman and appear in an NCAA basketball Final Four.
As a 1962-63 senior, he helped lead the Oregon State hoops team to three wins – against Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona State – en route to reaching the national semifinals.
Baker averaged 13.4 points per game as a senior point guard and was named national Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated. 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, months after winning the Heisman.
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.
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.
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 freshman at Syracuse. He put up impressive numbers, with 10.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He once pulled down 18 rebounds against Canisius.
Steve Spurrier — Spurrier was all-state in four sports, including basketball, coming out of Science Hill High in Johnston, Tenn.