Few accomplishments in football compare to winning a Heisman Trophy, but playing in or winning a Super Bowl comes pretty close.
When Philadelphia and New England meet in the 52nd Super Bowl on Feb. 4, it will be without a former Heisman winner on either roster. But that’s hardly par for the course in in the trophy’s history.
The teams that met in the very first Super Bowl on January 16, 1967, each featured Heisman winners on their rosters: Kansas City running back Mike Garrett, who won the award for USC in 1965 and Green Bay Packers quarterback Paul Hornung, the 1956 winner from Notre Dame. A pinched nerve kept Hornung out of the game, but Garrett rushed for 17 yards on six carries, caught three passes for 28 yards, returned two punts for 17 yards and took back two kickoffs for 43 yards as the Chiefs fell to Green Bay, 35-10.
A Heisman winner was in Super Bowl II, too, as Billy Cannon, the 1959 winner out of LSU, played tight end for the Oakland team that lost to Green Bay, 33-14.
Garrett returned with the Chiefs two years later to help Kansas City beat Minnesota in Super Bowl IV, 23-7, making him the first Heisman winner to play in and win a Super Bowl. Also on the Chiefs roster that year was the 1964 winner from Notre Dame, quarterback John Huarte.
Two years later, Roger Staubach of Navy (’63) was the first Heisman winner to be named the game’s Most Valuable Player when he led the Dallas Cowboys to a 24-3 victory over Miami in the 1972 Super Bowl.
The Heisman took a break from the big game for a few years, but the great Miami Dolphins squads of 1972 and 1973 featured two Heisman runner ups: Quarterback Bob Griese of Purdue, who placed second to Steve Spurrier in 1966, and wide receiver Howard Twilley of Tulsa, who finished behind Garrett in ’65. The 1974 Super Bowl featured those two plus 1971 runner up Ed Marinaro of Cornell, who played for the Vikings (Marinaro also was on the roster when Minnesota played in the 1975 Super Bowl against Pittsburgh).
In 1978, Staubach guided the Cowboys to their fourth Super Bowl as their rookie-of-the-year running back, Tony Dorsett, made history. Dorsett, who won the award for the Pittsburgh Panthers in 1976, became the first player to win a Heisman, a national championship and a Super Bowl when the Cowboys beat the Broncos, 27-10.
Dallas lost to the Steelers in the 1979 Super Bowl, bringing Staubach and Dorsett’s combined Super Bowl appearances to seven.
Four years later, another running back made history, as Marcus Allen became the first and only football player to win a national championship, a Heisman, a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP award, rushing for a then-Super Bowl-record 191 yards to help the Los Angeles Raiders rout Washington, 38-9. That win also marked the second NFL championship for 1981 Super Bowl MVP Jim Plunkett, who won the Heisman for Stanford in 1970.
A Heisman winner would not win another Super Bowl MVP award until Desmond Howard did so while playing for the Packers in the 1997 Super Bowl. Howard was the first special teams player to win MVP honors after totaling 244 return yards (including a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown) as Green Bay downed New England, 35-21.
In all, 18 Heisman winners have been listed 26 times on a Super Bowl roster, with 22 appearances in the game itself.
Here’s a rundown of Heisman Super Bowl superlatives:
Heisman winners on Super Bowl rosters
1967 – Mike Garrett (Kansas City), Paul Hornung* (Green Bay)
1968 – Billy Cannon (Oakland)
1970 – Mike Garrett*(Kansas City), John Huarte*(Kansas City)
1971 – Roger Staubach (Dallas)
1972 – Roger Staubach*(Dallas)
1976 – Roger Staubach(Dallas)
1978 – Roger Staubach*(Dallas), Tony Dorsett(Dallas)
1979 – Roger Staubach(Dallas), Tony Dorsett(Dallas)
1981 – Jim Plunkett* (Oakland)
1982 – Archie Griffin (Cincinnati)
1984 – Marcus Allen* (Los Angeles Raiders), Jim Plunkett*(Los Angeles Raiders)
1988 – George Rogers* (Washington)
1997 – Desmond Howard (Green Bay Packers)
2000 – Eddie George (Tennessee)
2001 – Ron Dayne (New York Giants)
2003 – Tim Brown (Oakland), Charles Woodson (Oakland)
2004 – Chris Weinke (Carolina)
2009 – Matt Leinart (Arizona)
2011 – Charles Woodson* (Green Bay)
2016 – Cam Newton (Carolina)
* – won Super Bowl
Won Heisman, National Title, Super Bowl & Super Bowl MVP
Won Heisman, National Title, NFL MVP, Super Bowl & Super Bowl MVP
Most rushing yards gained by a Heisman winner in a Super Bowl
191 – Marcus Allen, 1984.
Most passing yards gained by a Heisman winner in a Super Bowl
265 – Cam Newton, 2016
Most Super Bowl appearances by a Heisman winner
5 – Roger Staubach