Alabama’s DeVonta Smith recently became the first wide receiver to win college football’s coveted Heisman Trophy in 29 years. The last pass catcher to capture the award was Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991.
While many Heisman winners have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL, others have completely failed to excel at the sport’s highest level.
In fact, some of the best college football players have been complete busts in the National Football League. Here are five Heisman recipients who should have gone pro in something other than football.
Chris Weinke – Florida State Seminoles (2000)
Many would say FSU quarterback Chris Weinke never should have won the Heisman Trophy in 2000. At 28 years old, he was a grown man playing among boys.
Some would say he earned the award because of his performance the previous year when he led the Seminoles to the school’s first undefeated national championship.
Regardless, his days in the NFL were uneventful, to say the least. Selected in the fourth round by the Carolina Panthers in the 2001 NFL Draft, Weinke served as Jake Delhomme’s backup for six years.
When he finally received an opportunity to start in 2001, the team went 1-15. In 20 career starts in the NFL, Weinke had a 2-18 record. He played his last game in 2007 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
Robert Griffin III – Baylor Bears (2011)
For two years, quarterback Robert Griffin III (RG3) was the most electrifying football players in the sport, first with the Baylor Bears in 2011 and then with the then-Washington Redskins in 2012. But his name, unfortunately, faded quickly from the headlines.
After leading Washington to an NFC East title, his team hosted the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card round. During the game, he would succumb to another knee injury and never return to the same level of play.
Matt Leinart – USC Trojans (2004)
Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart was an incredible college football player who won the Heisman Trophy in 2004. Selected No. 10 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006 NFL Draft, Leinart was slatted to replace Kurt Warner under center.
Although he did start 11 games during his rookie year, Leinart would break his collarbone the following season, putting Warner at the helm once again. After Warner retired in 2009, Leinart couldn’t beat out Derek Anderson for the starting position.
His lack of athleticism and arm strength would be his downfall. He bounced around the league for several years before calling in quits in 2014.
Tim Tebow – Florida Gators (2007)
Not unlike Matt Leinart, Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was one of the greatest college athletes of his time. His pure athleticism and power afforded him the opportunity to beat teams in various ways.
The two-time national champion was picked No. 25 overall by the Denver Broncos in the 2010 NFL Draft. While Tebow went 7-4 as a starter the following season, his team won largely due to a stingy defense and the strong leg of kicker Matt Prater.
Despite some late game heroics, Tebow was not accurate enough as a passer to succeed at the NFL level. In 23 games with the Broncos, he completed just 47% of his passes for 2,383 yards, 17 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M (2012)
There’s no sugar coating it, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is one of the biggest Heisman Trophy busts the sport has ever seen. The sad thing is, it didn’t have to be this way.
“Johnny Football” was more of a celebrity rockstar than a professional athlete. His antics on and off the field were too much for teams to deal with. He was more of a distraction than an asset.
In 15 games with the Cleveland Browns he completed 57% of his passes for seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He wouldn’t play in the NFL for the next three years as substance abuse issues ruined any chances.
In 2018, he played in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Montreal Alouettes, although it was only for one year.