NFL Minicamps Done, Heisman Winners Keeping Sharp

DeVonta Smith

NFL mini camps came to a close this week and Heisman-winning alumni across the leagues are making headway in what they hope will be big 2021 seasons.

The most recently minted Heisman winner, DeVonta Smith, completed his workouts with the Eagles with a new found ease as he embarks on his NFL rookie season.

“I learned that I’m still growing more,” Smith said here. “I’ve kind of gotten out of my shell kind of quick. I can be somebody that interacts with people a lot, that’s not just always going to be to himself. I feel like it mostly goes to my teammates, just the way they’ve accepted me and how comfortable they made me feel. I’ve learned that I don’t have to always be this person that’s always in this shell.”

Smith, by the way, was tabbed as the third-best college wide receiver in ESPN’s recent list of the top 50 college wideouts of the last 50 years. His three fellow Heisman-winning receivers were also in the top 8 with Desmond Howard at No. 5, Johnny Rodgers at No. 7 and Tim Brown at No. 8.

The 2019 Heisman winner, Joe Burrow, continues to get closer to his goal of getting back under center when training camp opens in July. His 2,688 passing yards as a rookie are already good enough for 10th in team history. He’s excited to build on that.

“We were clicking. I think all camp, the ball might have hit the ground once in 7-on-7,” Burrow said here. “That’s the way it should be in 7-on-7 with no rush. We’re going to continue to execute. And that also comes with routes on air, just knowing the timing of the receivers. We’re getting better and better each week.”

The 2010 winner Cam Newton is in his second season at New England and by all accounts looked sharp with rookie and Heisman finalist Mac Jones competing with him.

Newton, recently named the No. 1 college football player of all time in this FoxSports column, received solid praise from his head coach.

“Cam’s way ahead of where he was last year at this time,” Pats head coach Bill Belichick said here. “There’s no question about that. As you would expect, he has a good year of experience under his belt and he’s able to start the process at the beginning and not be in a catch-up mode like he was last year.”

Likewise, 2017 Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is starting his second year in a new Cleveland Browns offense and his offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt likes what he sees.

“He was impressive [during minicamp],’’ Van Pelt said here. “There are a lot of areas and a lot of pass concepts that we wanted work on in this minicamp that maybe he didn’t completely own last year and wanted improvement in these plays. He’s shown that.”

Lamar Jackson, our 2016 winner, just wrapped a strong minicamp five weeks ahead of the start of Baltimore’s training camp, but stated the work doesn’t stop.

“It’s really not the offseason anymore,” Jackson said here. “For us, I’ll say, we’ve just got to keep grinding and stay in shape. We can’t go backwards right now, because we already had our fun and did whatever we did during the regular offseason. Not this time; it’s straight go-mode right now. The season is here.”

For the first time since 2005, the New Orleans Saints will have a new QB1 and 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston is battling to claim that title. This ESPN article details his goals to take over for Drew Brees.

Perhaps the most interesting minicamp story is the progression of 2007 Heisman winning quarterback Tim Tebow as he attempts to make a comeback as a tight end with Jacksonville under his former Florida coach, Urban Meyer. It’s no doubt an uphill battle to ultimately make the team, but he’s putting in the work.

Robert Griffin III is currently a free agent in the NFL quarterback market. Interestingly, he’s getting a lot of attention as a free agent in another field: broadcasting. The 2011 Heisman winner had tryouts with ESPN and Fox and both networks liked what they heard.