1. Marcus Allen – USC RB: The great Marcus Allen had a remarkable season in 1981 running for a remarkable 2,427 yards and 22 Touchdowns.
Before Allen got to USC, he was a Quarterback at San Diego Lincoln High School. Supposedly, the Trojans recruited Allen as a Defensive Back, but he was switched to Tailback. However, 1979 Heisman Trophy winner Charles White was already playing Tailback for USC. As a freshman in 1978, Allen ran for just 171 yards. The following season, Allen played Fullback and blocked for Charles White. But, he also ran for 649 yards and 8 Touchdowns. After White was gone, Allen moved back to Tailback and ran for 1,563 yards and 14 Touchdowns. The strange thing is that Allen did not even place in the top 10 in the Heisman voting.
Running for 2,427 yards while playing for most any major powerhouse is probably going to win the Heisman and Allen was just totally dominating in 1981 and deserved the Trophy. He also won the
Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards and he was the UPI Player of the Year.
In the NFL Draft, Allen was picked with the 10th selection of the 1st round by the Oakland Raiders. It was much more of the same in the NFL with Raiders winning the Rookie of the Year in 1982. By the time Allen was done in the NFL, he had 12,243 rushing yards and 5,411 yards receiving and 144 Touchdowns. Allen played 11 seasons with the Raiders and then 5 more seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. 16 years is a phenomenal playing career for a Running Back.
2. Herschel Walker – Georgia RB: 1981 was Walker’s sophomore season and actually his best. He finished 3rd in the Heisman voting in 1980 as a true freshman while running for 1,616 yards and 15 Touchdowns. As a sophomore, he improved those numbers to 1,891 yards and 18 Touchdowns. Walker and Quarterback Buck Belue led the Bulldogs to a SEC Championship and a berth in the Sugar Bowl against Pittsburgh. They did lose to ACC Power Clemson who won the national championship that season and then they lost to Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl. There will be much more about Herschel Walker in the 1982 version of the Heisman Trophy voting results.
3. Jim McMahon – Brigham Young QB: If you were around in the 1980s chances are you remember the Super Bowl Shuffle featuring Jim McMahon and his Chicago Bears teammates. McMahon was the cool guy wearing the sunglasses. The Bears led by McMahon and super star Running Back Walter Payton went on and crushed the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
McMahon finished 5th in the Heisman in his junior season in 1980 while throwing for an incredible 4,571 yards and 47 Touchdowns. The BYU Cougars finished the 1980 season with a 12-1 record. In the 1981 season, the Cougars finished 11-2 while McMahon threw for 3,555 yards and 30 Touchdowns. The Chicago Bears drafted McMahon with the 5th pick of the 1st round. He spent 7 seasons with the Bears including the Super Bowl championship season in 1985. After the 1988 season, the Bears traded McMahon to the San Diego Chargers where he spent one season. McMahon started most of the season with the Chargers in 1989, but he was benched late in the year and then released. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and then bounced around the league for a while and he ended up playing 15 seasons in the NFL.
Jim McMahon was always a rebel both on and off the field.
4. Dan Marino – Pittsburgh QB: Marino was one of the game’s all time great Quarterbacks with an incredible quick release. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Marino decided to stay home and attend the University of Pittsburgh where he was a four year starter. The Panthers finished 11-1 in 1981 while Marino threw for 2,876 yards and 37 Touchdowns. 1981 was Marino’s best season at Pittsburgh which was his junior season. Marino finished 9th in the Heisman race in 1982 and more about him in the next Heisman article.
5. Art Schlichter – Ohio State QB: Schlichter was one of the more troubled players to ever play the game up until modern days when Johnny Manziel came along. Schlichter was a talented athlete and 1981 was his best season as a passer with 2,551 passing yards and 17 Touchdowns. The Baltimore Colts drafted Schlichter with the 4th pick of the 1st round. Schlichter was a major gambling addict
and blew every dime that he made in the NFL and was suspended for gambling. He is considered one of the bigger draft busts in NFL history. Schlichter has been sentenced to prison for several offenses other than gambling including cocaine use and running a ticket scam.
6. Darrin Nelson – Stanford RB: A four year starter at Stanford, Nelson was one of the most productive Running Backs in Stanford history. He started as a freshman in 1977 and ran for 1,069 yards which was his best year on the ground. He also had 50 receptions for 524 yards. That was what made Nelson such a great college Running Back. He was talented carrying the football in the running game, but he was a tremendous receiver out of the backfield as well. As a sophomore, Nelson ran for 1,061 yards and again caught 50 passes.
He sat out 1979 because of injury, but he bounced back in 1980. He did only rush for 889 yards, but again he had a big year receiving with 47 receptions for 552 yards. In his senior year of 1981, Nelson ran for 1,014 yards and he caught 67 passes for 846 yards. Over his 4 year career at Stanford, Nelson ran for 4,033 yards and 24 Touchdowns. He also caught 214 passes for 2,368 and another 16 Touchdowns.
Nelson was picked with the 7th selection of the 1st round by the Minnesota Vikings. In the NFL,
Darrin Nelson had a long and fruitful career. He was never going to be a huge star at Running Back because he was only 5-9, 180 most of his career. But, he was a great 3rd down back and definitely again a great receiver out of the backfield. He wound up playing 11 years in the league rushing for 4,442 yards and catching 286 passes for 2,559 yards.
After football, Nelson went to work in the Athletic Department at his own school. Currently, he works for the Cardinal’s biggest rival, the Cal Bears.
7. Anthony Carter – Michigan WR: The Reviera Beach, Florida native was a big time Wide Receiver that had a great career at Michigan. As a sophomore in 1980, Carter caught 51 passes and finished 10th in the Heisman voting. By today’s standards, that’s not a lot of receptions in a season but keep in mind that Michigan was a predominately running team and times have changed. In 1981, Carter was back for his junior season and he had another good year catching 50 passes for 952 yards and 8 Touchdowns. Carter also returned punts and kicks, but he only scored twice in his career at Michigan on returns. There will be much more on Anthony Carter in the 1982 version of the Heisman Voting Results when Carter finished in 4th place. Carter was never a very big guy. When he was drafted by the NFL, he was listed as 5-11, 168. But, he made up for the lack of size with great speed.
8. Kenneth Sims – Texas DT: Kenneth Sims grew up in a tiny somewhat East Texas town called Groesbeck. Although Groesbeck is a small town, it has produced 3 NFL players and Joe Don Baker the actor that played in the original Walking Tall movie and many other roles. Sims signed with the
Texas Longhorns and he backed up future NFL Defensive Tackles Steve McMichael and Bill Acker who were incidentally both from the same small town in South Texas. Sims was a dominating force at Defensive Tackle and was a consensus All American in 1980 and 1981. He also won the Lombardi Award for the nation’s best Lineman in 1981.
The New England Patriots drafted Sims with the very first pick of the NFL Draft in 1982. Being such a high pick always places huge expectations on a player and some might consider Sims something of a bust. Sims had a ton of ability, but the rumors were that he was not interested in working very hard. He took it easy in practice and eventually that caught up with him at the highest level. He did manage to play 8 seasons in the NFL with the Patriots and played in the Super Bowl.
9. Reggie Collier – Southern Mississippi QB: How often does a player from Southern Mississippi place in the top 10 in the Heisman race? Not even the great Brett Favre earned such a distinction. Collier, like Favre, was from a small town in the southern part of Mississippi, D’Iberville. He didn’t even play football until his junior year of high school and then was injured fairly early. During his senior season, Collier led his team to an undefeated record, but he still was not heavily recruited. Collier was a back up as a freshman, but took over the starting role in his sophomore season of 1980 and he led his Southern Mississippi team to a 9-3 record. The 1981 season was Collier’s best at Southern Miss. He became the first Quarterback in college football history to throw for over 1,000
yards and run for over 1,000 yards. The Southern Miss Golden Eagles were a running team and they had 2 1,000 yard rushers that season with Sammy Winder also breaking the magical barrier. The Southern Mississippi coach, Bobby Collins, left after the 1981 season and he was replaced by Jim Carmody and Collier did not have as great a senior season as expected.
Collier was drafted by the Birmingham Stallions of the short lived United States Football League. Birmingham traded Collier to the Washington Federals where he was coached by ESPN’s Lee Corso after the team moved to Orlando. He was later drafted by the Dallas Cowboys where he played a little in 1986. He also played a little for the Steelers in 1987 before making the move to Arena Football where he finished his career.
Collier went to work after football with the Southern Mississippi Athletic Department.
10. Rich Diana – Yale RB: Even more rare than a player from Southern Mississippi making the top 10 in the Heisman voting was somebody from Yale. Diana was a Running Back at Yale and in 1980 he cracked the 1,000 yard barrier by 74 yards and helped the Yale Bulldogs to an 8-2 record. Diana was even better in 1981 as he ran for 1,442 yards and 14 Touchdowns and the Bulldogs improved to 9-1 on the season. The 5-9, 220 Diana was picked in the 5th round by the Miami Dolphins where he only played 1 season.
But, don’t feel sorry for Diana as he became an Orthopedic Surgeon after football.