Heisman history sprinkled with service academy winners

sports@macon.comDecember 9, 2013 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Roger Staubach winning the Heisman Trophy.

The Naval Academy quarterback easily outdistanced Georgia Tech standout Billy Lothridge for the award in 1963, collecting 1,860 points to 504 for the Yellow Jackets signal caller. Roger “The Dodger” guided Navy to a 9-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking, passing for 1,474 yards and seven touchdowns. Navy lost to Texas in the Cotton Bowl for the national championship.

Staubach, who went on to an NFL Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys while guiding them to two Super Bowl titles, was just the fourth underclassman, all juniors up to that point, to win the prized statue. He was the fifth Heisman winner from one of the service academies and the most recent one to do so.

During the middle of the 20th century, Army and Navy produced some outstanding teams. Army won three straight national championships (two AP and one Helms Athletic Foundation) from 1944 through 1946 while compiling a 27-0-1 record. Those teams were led by “Mr. Inside” Felix “Doc” Blanchard and “Mr. Outside” Glen Davis, who both went on to win Heisman trophies. Blanchard became the first underclassman to win the Heisman, taking his in 1945, with Davis claiming the award in 1946. Georgia’s Charlie Trippi finished second to Davis.

Pete Dawkins, who overcame polio as a child, was the third Heisman winner from Army. Dawkins, who went on to attain the rank of Brigadier General, led the Black Knights to an unbeaten record in 1958 as they finished third nationally after completing the season at 8-0-1. The lone blemish was a tie at 14 at Pittsburgh. That was the famous Army team that featured “Lonesome End” Bill Carpenter. He never entered the Army huddle, forcing opponents to keep a man heads up on him at all times.

Even with its impressive record, Army did not play in a bowl game that season. In fact, Army shunned bowl games until 1984, when it beat Michigan State 10-6 in the Cherry Bowl.

Joe Bellino became Navy’s first Heisman winner in 1960 while leading the Midshipmen to a 9-2 record, including a 21-14 loss to Missouri in the Orange Bowl. His statistics from that season were meager at best compared to today’s figures. He rushed for 834 yards, caught 15 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns and threw for three touchdowns. He averaged 47.1 yards punting.

The Naval Academy has played in 18 bowl games in its history dating back to the 1924 Rose Bowl, when it tied Washington at 14.

Army has 23 former players who have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, while Navy has 19. This compares to 13 for Georgia and 12 for Georgia Tech.

Between the awarding of the first Heisman in 1935 through Staubach’s winning year in 1963, in addition to the five service academy winners, there were 17 other players from Army or Navy to finish in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy balloting. Since that season through 2012, only four players have ranked in the top 10, with former Air Force quarterback Dee Dowis, who played at Franklin County, with the best finish at No. 6 in 1989. Air Force, which started playing football in 1955, has never had a Heisman Trophy winner.

The service academy drought will continue this year, as no player from any of the three programs has been invited to Saturday’s ceremonies at the Best Buy Theater in New York.

If I had a vote, which I don’t, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron would join the list of Heisman winners this weekend. You can look for Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston to become the third Seminoles player to take the coveted award, joining Charlie Ward, who won in 1993, and Chris Weinke, who took the famed statue in 2000.

Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Email him at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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