The 1970 Heisman Trophy Race

1. Jim Plunkett – Stanford QB

Plunkett finished 8th in the 1969 voting and in 1970 he was the first Latino to win the Heisman Trophy. Plunkett led his Stanford Cardinal to the Pac 8 Championship with an 8-3 record while throwing for 2,980 yards which was tops in the entire nation. Plunkett was the very first pick in the NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He was rookie of the year but his career slide rather quickly. He did make a comeback and lead the Raiders to the Super Bowl Championship.

2. Joe Theisman – Notre Dame QB

Theisman changed the pronunciation of his name to rhyme with Heisman and he came in second. He says it was the Notre Dame Sports Information Director that came up with the name change. Theisman took over the starting role at Notre Dame after Terry Hanratty was injured at the end of the 1968 season. As the starter in the 1969 season, Theisman led the Fighting Irish to their first bowl game in 40 years where they lost to Texas. The following season, 1970, the Irish made it back to the Cotton Bowl and had their revenge on Texas. Even though Heisman would throw for over 2,400 yards, he still finished 2nd in the Heisman voting. Theisman was a 4th round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins, but could not come to an agreement with them contractually, so he signed with the Toronto Argonauts where he played well for 3 seasons. Before the 1974 season, Theisman signed with the Washington Redskins where he would start for many seasons and win a Super Bowl.

3. Archie Manning – Stanford QB

Most famous for being the father of Peyton and Eli Manning, but Archie Manning was great in his own right. Manning only threw for 1,481 yards as a senior but still finished 3rd in the Heisman race. Ole Miss finished 7-3-1, 8-3, and 7-4 with Manning as their starting Quarterback.

Then, he was the 2nd pick in the draft behind Plunkett and he played some tortuous years with the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings.

4. Steve Worster – Texas FB

The first ever Wishbone Fullback, Worster never put up huge numbers but he did have 2,353 yards and 36 Touchdowns over 3 seasons. Worster ran for 898 yards his senior season and scored 14

Touchdowns. The Texas Longhorns won 3 straight conference championships under the leadership of Worster and 30 straight games with a national championship. Worster was chosen in the 4th round by the Los Angeles Rams but didn’t make the team and he played a year in Canada with the Hamilton Tiger Cats before choosing to leave the game.

5. Rex Kern – Ohio State QB

Kern was one of the better players of his day, but he never put up huge numbers because Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes just didn’t like passing the football. He liked to run the football with his Fullback. Kern  had bigger numbers as a junior and finished 3rd in the Heisman voting. As a junior, he dropped to 5th. Kern threw for 2,444 yards and 19 Touchdowns and ran for 1,714 and 24 Touchdown. Kern was drafted in the 10th round by the Baltimore Colts and played Defensive Back for a few years with the Colts and the Buffalo Bills.

6. Pat Sullivan – Auburn QB

Sullivan passed for 2,586 yards and 17 Touchdowns in 1970 and he actually had a better season in 1970 than in 1971 when he won the Heisman Trophy. More about Pat Sullivan in another blog.

7. Jack Tatum – Ohio State DB

One of the game’s all time greats who sadly died in 2010 at the age of 61 from a heart attack.

8. Ernie Jennings – Air Force WR

Jennings may have been one of the best all time Air Force players, if not the very best. He caught 74 passes in 1970 and was Consensus All American. He still holds Air Force receiving records. Jennings went into the Air Force, but was drafted in the 10th round by San Francisco in 1971. When he got out of the service, he tried to play for the 49ers, but was cut.


9. Don McCauley – North Carolina RB


McCauley is a forgotten legend that led the nation in rushing in 1970 and broke OJ Simpson’s single season rushing record with 1,720 yards rushing which still stands as the North Carolina record. McCauley was versatile for the Tar Heels catches passes, returning kicks and even punting. He played 11 years in the NFL after being drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the first round and was a star player for them. I have a post coming out about the great Don McCauley coming out soon.

10. Lynn Dickey – Kansas State QB

Kansas State was traditionally bad before Bill Snyder came along, but Lynn Dickey was a great Quarterback for them for 3 seasons. In 1970, Dickey threw for 2163 yards and finished his career with 6,208 yards which lasted until the 2008 season when it was broken by Josh Freeman. Dickey played 13 seasons in the NFL with the Houston Oilers and the Green Bay Packers. He finished with an impressive 23,322 yards and 141 Touchdowns.

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