Wide receivers and the Heisman Trophy: DeVonta Smith can join exclusive fraternity with win

Alabama’s DeVonta Smith can become the fourth wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in its 85 years and the first since 1991.  

ESPN will announce the winner at the 86th Heisman Trophy Ceremony on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Smith is one of four finalists along with three quarterbacks: Alabama’s Mac Jones, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Florida’s Kyle Trask.  

Smith, who earned SN’s College Football Player of the Year Award, has 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 20 TDs heading into the College Football Playoff championship matchup against No. 3 Ohio State on Jan. 11.  

Smith could join an exclusive group within the fraternity as a result. Sporting News looks at how receivers have fared winning the Heisman Trophy.  

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Who is the last wide receiver to win the Heisman?  

Desmond Howard, Michigan (1991)

Howard had 62 catches for 985 yards and 19 TDs. He added 180 rushing yards and two TDs, and he totaled 684 return yards and two more TDs between kicks and punts.  

Howard was more than stats. He provided two Heisman moments with a spectacular diving catch against Notre Dame and a punt return against Ohio State in which he struck the “Heisman pose.”  

How many wide receivers have won the Heisman Trophy?  

DeVonta Smith would become the fourth player listed as a wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy, joining Desmond Howard (1991), Tim Brown (1987) and Johnny Rodgers (1972). 

Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska (1972)

Rodgers time between receiver and running back. Rodgers had 58 catches for 1,013 yards and nine TDs. He added 73 carries for 348 yards and 10 TDs.  

Tim Brown, Notre Dame (1987)  

Brown had 39 catches for 846 yards and three TDs. He added 34 rushes for 144 yards and a TD. Like Howard, Brown was an electric returner. He had 857 return yards between kicks and punts, and that included three punt returns for TDs.  

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Who has come close since 1991?  

Since 1991, five receivers have finished in the top four in the Heisman Trophy voting. A look at those receivers:  

Randy Moss, Marshall (1997)  

Moss had 96 catches for 1,820 yards and 26 TDs and was a threat in the return game. He finished fourth in a Heisman class that featured Charles Woodson, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.  

Larry Fitzgerald, Pitt (2003)  

Fitzgerald finished second in the voting in 2003. Fitzgerald had 92 catches for 1,672 yards and 22 TDs. Oklahoma’s Jason White beat out Fitzgerald for the Heisman.  

Marqise Lee, USC (2012) 

Lee finished with 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 TDs as a junior in 2012. He finished fourth in the voting behind Johnny Manziel, Manti Te’o and Collin Klein.  

Amari Cooper, Alabama (2014)  

Cooper finished third in the voting with a record-setting season for the Crimson Tide. He finished with 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 TDs. He finished behind Marcus Mariota and Melvin Gordon in the voting.  

Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma (2016)  

Westbrook had 80 catches for 1,524 yards for 17 TDs. He added 325 return yards and a TD along with 101 rushing yards. Westbrook finished fourth behind Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Sooners teammate Baker Mayfield.  

What is DeVonta Smith’s Heisman moment?  

Smith didn’t strike the Heisman pose after a punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas on Dec. 12, but he backed his case in the Crimson Tide’s last two games.  

In the SEC championship game victory against Florida and the CFP semifinal victory (after the voting) against Notre Dame, Smith totaled 22 receptions for 314 yards and five TDs.  

He is the favorite to win the Heisman. Smith was asked what that would mean to represent all receivers and win the award in a press conference Monday.  

“The person that goes out and just puts in the work, they’re going to get the things that they deserve,” he said. “So if you work for things you’re going to get the things that you deserve.” 

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