Dandy Dozen: In defense of the Heisman

BY foxsports • October 6, 2011

Honey Badger for Heisman.


LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu - aka Honey Badger - seemingly has been everywhere for the Tigers this season, compiling a stat line in four games that most defensive backs would be happy to accomplish in a career.

The sophomore has forced four fumbles, recovered three fumbles and scored two touchdowns. He's got an interception and 1 1/2 sacks. He also leads the team in tackles and is second in tackles for loss.

Mathieu's play for the top-ranked team in the country has spawned a grass roots Heisman Trophy campaign by LSU fans that includes a Tyrann Mathieu for Heisman Facebook page.

Mathieu's chances of joining Michigan's Charles Woodson to become the second defense-first player in the modern era of football to win the Heisman are probably pretty slim.

But also working in Mathieu's favor is that great nickname. Apparently, he isn't thrilled with having the moniker thrust on him, but much like the Internet video of the furry and ferocious little beast, the nickname has gone viral.

So in honor of Mathieu, here are 12 defensive players who made a run at the Heisman Trophy.

1) Hugh Green, de, Pittsburgh.

Green was devastating for the Panthers during his four-year career, and never better than in 1980. He had 17 sacks that season for a team that was 11-1. He finished second behind South Carolina's George Rogers, and as good as Rogers was, Green probably should have been the winner. The teams played in the Gator Bowl and Pitt won 37-9.

2) Alex Karras, dt, Iowa.

Finished a distant second in Heisman voting in 1957 to Texas A&M running back John David Crow. When he wasn't feuding with Hawkeyes coach Forest Evashevski, Karras was dominating opposing offenses. He also won the Outland Trophy in '57.

3) Ndamukong Suh, dt, Nebraska.

Suh was a fringe candidate for most of the 2009 season, then became a serious contender and finalist when he had 4 1/2 sacks in the Big 12 title game against Texas. Alabama's Mark Ingram won the Heisman, but Suh had the most memorable performance of the season.

4) Dick Butkus, lb, Illinois.

One of the greatest linebackers to ever put on pads, Butkus finished third in the Heisman voting behind a couple of quarterbacks, John Huarte from Notre Dame and Jerry Rhome from Tulsa, in 1964. He had finished sixth the year before. He didn't get the Heisman, but now there's an award named after Butkus that goes to the best college linebacker.

5) Rich Glover, dl, Nebraska.

Placed third behind teammate and winner Johnny Rodgers and Oklahoma tailback Greg Pruitt in 1972. Playing middle guard the for the Blackshirts, Glover also won the Outland and Lombardi awards as the best lineman in the country. Cornhuskers Hall of Fame coach Bob Devaney called Glover the best defensive player he ever coached.

6) Lee Roy Jordan, lb, Alabama.

Coach Bear Bryant said of Jordan that he ''never had a bad day.'' He was the cornerstone of some of the Bear's best teams, including a national championship winner in 1961. The next season, the Tide fell short of another title, but Jordan was fourth in Heisman voting, and finished his career with 31 tackles in a 17-0 victory against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

7) Steve Emtman, dt, Washington.

The Huskie shared the national championship in 1991, voted No. 1 in the coaches' poll while Miami held the top spot in the AP. Emtman was a huge - literally, at 6-foot-4, 294 pounds - force for that undefeated team. He finished fourth in a Heisman vote won in a landslide by Michigan's Desmond Howard.

8) Brian Bosworth, lb, Oklahoma.

The brash-talking, mohawk-headed Boz gets remembered as an over-hyped media creation because he didn't amount to much in the NFL, but as a Sooner he could really play. He won the first two Butkus Awards and in 1986 he finished fourth in the Heisman voting. Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde was the winner.

9) Chuck Bednarik, lb, Pennsylvania.

Little bit of a cheat because Bednarik played center and occasionally punted. But Bednarik now has an award named after him that goes to the nation's best defensive player. In 1948, he finished third in the Heisman voting behind running backs Doak Walker of SMU and Charlie Justice of North Carolina. Bednarik won the Maxwell Award, college football's other prestigious player of the year trophy.

Bednarik was one of several two-way stars to finish in the top five of the Heisman voting before two-platoon football became common. Oklahoma's Kurt Burris (finished second in 1954) and Jerry Tubbs (fourth in 1956) were among the notable. Both played center on offense in addition to their duties on defense.

10) Ross Browner, dt, Notre Dame.

Browner had already won the Outland Trophy as a junior in 1976. In 1977, he added the Lombardi and Maxwell Awards, but he only managed a fifth in the Heisman voting, not even good enough for best on his title-winning team. Fighting Irish TE Ken MacAfee finished third behind Texas' Earl Campbell and Oklahoma State's Terry Miller.

11) Terry Hoage, db, Georgia.

Bulldogs coach Vince Dooley called Hoage the best defensive player he ever coached. The two-time SEC defensive player of the year, finished fifth to a star-studded lineup of Heisman finishers in 1983. Nebraska's Mike Rozier won the award. BYU's Steve Young was second, Doug Flutie of Boston College was third and Nebraska's Turner Gill was fourth.

12) Mike Reid, dt, Penn State.

A star for Joe Paterno on two teams that went undefeated. As a senior in 1969, Reid finished fifth in the Heisman voting. After an NFL career shortened by injuries, he became a country music songwriter and artist, recording two albums.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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