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Which Heisman Winner Never Played in NFL?

Come on, the best college football players in the country surely all played in the NFL, right?


One of them never played a single down in an NFL game, or even signed with a team. Have you got it figured out yet?

The answer is 1993 Heisman Trophy winner, Charlie Ward from Florida State. This is hardly a disgrace for Ward, because he was such an outstanding athlete that he signed with the NBA and the New York Knicks.

Going into the 1993 season, one of the greatest coaches in college football history had never won a

national championship. He had been the head coach at Florida State since 1976 and he had come close, but no national titles. The pressure was mounting, actually, to win a national championship. The Seminole faithful wanted a title instead of a lot of top 5 finishes.

In 1992, a redshirt junior named Charlie Ward had taken over the starting role at quarterback for the Seminoles. Ward gave the Seminoles another option as a quarterback that they had never had before. He was a guy that could pass, but he could also take off and get the first down, and more, with his feet. He was much more mobile than previous quarterbacks Casey Weldon and Brad Johnson.

Ward had a pretty good season in 1992 in leading the Seminoles to an 11-1 finish. They were a missed kick away from sending the Miami game into overtime and a possible unbeaten season. They lost to Miami, 16-19, and that was getting old

Ward passed for over 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also ran for 504 yards and 6 more touchdowns. However, as a first year starter at quarterback who had never played much, Ward also threw 17 interceptions in 1992 and that would have to improve if he were to lead the team to a national title.

It hadn’t been a cake walk for Charlie Ward. He was considered the top quarterback in the state of Georgia in the recruiting class of 1988. As a senior at Thomasville Central High School, Ward ran for over 1,000 yards and he threw for almost 2,000. He was the Georgia offensive player of the year by the Atlanta Constitution and won about every other award there was. He signed with Florida State, but did not qualify academically. He took classes at Tallahassee Community College, but he finally passed his test and qualified. That had to be pretty stressful for Ward and for Florida State.

He was considered a true freshman in 1989 and played very little. He redshirted in 1990 and he threw 9 passes in 1991. He came into the 1992 season with very little experience under his belt.

But, 1993 was different.

The 1993 Seminole team was loaded across the board. They had not only senior Charlie Ward, but at running back they had Sean Jackson and a young guy from Baton Rouge, Louisiana named Warrick Dunn. At fullback, there was future first round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers, William Floyd. Also at fullback was Poo Bear Williams.

Wide receiver positions were also loaded led by Tamarick Vanover, Matt Frier and Kez McCorvey.

All American Clay Shiver led the offensive line along with Juan Laureano and Marvin Ferrell.

Over on the defensive side of the ball, the Seminoles had Derrick Brooks, Corey Sawyer, Clifton Abraham, Devin Bush, Ken Alexander and Derrick Alexander. They were dominating on both sides of the football.

There was enough talent to gain the notice of the national media and they were voted the top team in the country.

Back in these years, college football had a kickoff classic which was just another excuse to make more money and open early. I am clueless as to why they picked Kansas to play Florida State in the 1993 version of the Kickoff Classic, but it was an ugly 42-0 win for the Florida State Seminoles. Kansas was 8-4 in the 1992 season, but Kansas has never been consistent in football and it was a blowout and the Jawhawks went 5-6 in 1993.

Charlie Ward got his season off with a 16 completion out of 26 passes for 194 yards and no

touchdowns, or interceptions.

After years of independence, the Florida State Seminoles had joined the ACC in 1992 and they began conference play next.

The Noles crushed Duke, 45-7, with Ward completing 22 passes for 272 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ward basically played one drive of the second half before sitting.

17th ranked Clemson was next and the Seminoles just hammered them, 57-0. It was one of the worst beatings in the history of Clemson football and it was no fluke.

Ward started really looking like a Heisman contender when he threw for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns before he was pulled in the 3rd quarter to gain back up Danny Kanell valuable playing time.

Against the Tar Heels of North Carolina, Ward threw his first pick of the season and the Noles found themselves down on the scoreboard for the first time, also. But, that didn’t last long with the Seminoles scoring 33 straight points. Charlie Ward threw for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ward also ran for 69 yards.

Florida State crushed Georgia Tech, 51-0, and next on the schedule was every Seminole fan’s nightmare, the Miami Hurricanes. It was the top ranked Seminoles against the 3rd ranked Hurricanes, business as usual.

But, this time, the Noles took down the Canes without having to rely on a kicker. There was no wide left, or wide right, just a 28-10 solid win for the Seminoles. Ward had his Heisman moment by hitting Matt Frier over two Hurricanes for a 72 yard touchdown.

After dispensing of the Hurricanes, the Seminoles beat up the Cavaliers of Virginia 40-14, and they

were ranked 15th. They stomped Wake Forest 54-0 and then Maryland 49-20. Ward threw for over 300 yards against the Cavaliers, but he sat out against Maryland because of an injury.

It was the classic number one versus number two when Florida State traveled to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The game very much lived up to it’s billing with the Irish pulling off the win when Notre Dame knocked down Charlie Ward’s pass in the end zone.

This incredibly exciting game was maybe the best game of the year and will be the subject of another post.

Florida State lost it’s number one ranking, but Boston College came through for the Seminoles and upset the Fighting Irish the following week. After beating the Wolfpack, Florida State was back in the top spot with tough 7th ranked Florida still standing in the way.

This was a really good Steve Spurrier coached Gator team and SEC champions. But, that didn’t stop the Seminoles for beating them 33-21.

Sports fans have short memories, so Charlie Ward gave them a good wake up shot by throwing for 446 yards and 4 touchdowns.

That performance was enough to win the 1993 Heisman Trophy and gain Florida State a place in the national championship game against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

The Seminoles went on to beat the Cornhuskers and win Bobby Bowden’s first national title.

Ward finished his senior season with 3,032 passing yards and 27 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions. Ward also ran for 339 yards and 4 more touchdowns.

The NFL was not that excited about Charlie Ward because of his lack of size, supposedly, and because of his interest in the NBA. He wasn’t small at 6-2, 190, so it must have been his basketball potential that scared them off.

The NFL did not draft him, and the NBA’s New York Knicks took him with their 1st round pick and he was off to play basketball. He had a good career, playing 11 seasons in New York and then another couple of seasons with the Houston Rockets.

Now, the next time you are playing a trivia game and somebody asks you who the only Heisman Trophy winner that didn’t play in the NFL was, you will know it was Charlie Ward of Florida State.