1976 Heisman Trophy Race

1. Tony Dorsett – Pittsburgh RB: Over the years, some Heisman Trophy winners have proven to be overrated and have been huge disappointments. But, Tony Dorsett was just the opposite. Dorsett was one of the better Heisman winners of all time on every level. Dorsett was a star high school player at Aliquippa, Pennsylvania’s Hopewell High School. He signed with Pittsburgh in 1973 and was an instant star as a true freshman. He ran for 1,686 yards and 13 yards and led a team that had gone 1-10 in 1972 to a 6-5-1 record and a bowl game. He made 1st team All American as a true freshman. His sophomore year was something of a disappointment when he only ran for 1,004 yards, but the

Panthers improved to 7-4. During Dorsett’s junior football season, he came back strong with 1,686 yards rushing and 13 scores. Pittsburgh improved slightly more with an 8-4 record. 1976 was when the real magic happened as Tony Dorsett busted out for 2,150 yards rushing and 22 Touchdowns and Pittsburgh finished 12-0 with a win over the Georgia Bulldogs and their Junkyard Dog defense in the Sugar Bowl. I wrote about their opponents here: junkyard dawgs

That was just the beginning for this superstar as the Dallas Cowboys drafted him the 1st round of the NFL Draft. Dorsett became the only player in history to win a championship in college football and then win a Super Bowl championship. In the NFL, Dorsett ran for over 12,000 career yards. Not only did he win the Heisman and the national championship and the Super Bowl, Dorsett is in the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. http://collegefootballcrazy.com/?s=tony+dorsett+

2. Ricky Bell – USC RB: Bell probably should have won the Heisman in 1975 when he ran for 1,957 yards, but the award went to Archie Griffin from Ohio State. 1975 was a bad season for the Trojans of USC as they went 8-4 in spite of the heroics of Bell. In 1976, Ricky Bell ran for 1,433 yards and 14 Touchdowns and the Trojans recovered and finished 11-1. After losing their first game of the season to the Missouri Tigers of the Big 8 Conference, the Trojans won 11 straight included a Rose Bowl win over the Michigan Wolverines. One of the reasons that Ricky Bell’s production dropped off as a senior was the arrival of future star Tailback Charles White. Tony Dorsett beat out Bell for the

Heisman, but then Ricky Bell was drafted as the #1 pick over all by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while the Dallas Cowboys had the 2nd pick and took Dorsett. Bell only had one really outstanding season with the Bucs when in 1979 he ran for over 1.300 yards. Ricky Bell played only 6 seasons in the NFL and he ran for just over 3,000 total yards. In 1984, Ricky Bell unfortunately passed away from heart failure.

3. Rob Lytle – Michigan RB: Lytle was another one of my childhood heroes. He split time at Fullback and Tailback for the Wolverines from 1974 until 1976. He rushed for 802 yards as a sophomore, followed by 1,040 yards as a junior and then 1,469 yards and 14 Touchdowns. He was a consensus All American in 1976. Lytle and his Michigan Wolverine teammates were ranked #1 for much of the season but they were upset by Purdue and then they lost to Ricky Bell and USC in the

Rose Bowl. Lytle was a 2nd round pick by the Denver Broncos, but injuries kept him from having a great NFL career. He did rush for over 1,400 yards in 7 NFL seasons. He was on the team that lost to Bell in his last college game and then his Broncos lost to the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Dorsett in his first year in the NFL.

Sadly, Rob Lytle died of a heart attack in his home town of Fremont, Ohio in 2010.

4. Terry Miller – Oklahoma State RB: Before there was Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State, there was Terry Miller.  Miller was a junior in 1976, but it was his best season at Oklahoma State. This season he ran for 1,714 yards and a really impressive 23 Touchdowns. The following season, Miller would finish 2nd in the Heisman race to the amazing Earl Campbell of Texas. Miller ran for almost 5,000 yards in his 4 year career for the Cowboys. The Buffalo Bills picked Miller with the 5th pick in the 1978 NFL Draft and he went over the 1,000 yard barrier as a rookie. But, his second year saw the talented Miller start to decline with only 484 yards rushing and then he was replaced by Joe Cribbs at Buffalo. He only played 3 seasons for Buffalo and then moved on to Seattle where he played another season and was done with football. Later on, Terry Miller would get in some legal troubles.

5. Tommy Kramer – Rice QB:  Tommy Kramer was way ahead of his time. He was known as the king of comebacks as a high school football player when his team won state in 1971 and went to the state semi-finals in 1972. This was an era when teams didn’t throw the ball and especially high school teams. Kramer somewhat strangely signed with the Rice Owls of the old Southwest Conference.

Kramer was a 4 year starter on a really bad college football team. Kramer threw for 3,317 yards back in the days when that was phenomenal yardage. He threw for 21 Touchdowns as a senior in 1976, but he also threw 19 Interceptions, which was the standard in those years. The Minnesota Vikings drafted Kramer in the 1st round as a future replacement for Fran Tarkington. Kramer threw for nearly 25,000 yards for the Vikings before finishing up his career with 1 uneventful year in New Orleans in 1990. I have a lot of great memories about Tommy Kramer.

6. Gifford Nielson – BYU QB: In the days of old, BYU was known as a Quarterback producing school. The best would have been Steve Young of San Francisco 49ers fame, and Jim McMahan of Chicago Bears fame. But, there were many others like Gifford Nielson, Marc Wilson, Robbie Bosco, Ty Detmar, and Steve Sarkisian. Gifford Nielson had a phenomenal year in 1976 throwing for an astounding 3,401 yards and 30 Touchdowns. Like was standard for the times, he also threw 23 Interceptions. After having an outstanding junior season in 1976, Nielson had a sub par senior year and then was picked in the 3rd round by the Houston Oilers in the NFL Draft. Nielson played 6 seasons in the NFL, but never really accomplished that much on the field. He threw for just over 3,000 yards as a pro and his best season was his last one in 1983.

7. Ray Goff – Georgia QB: Ray Goff was the Quarterback of the Georgia Bulldogs when they faced the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship. The Bulldogs were a running team and Goff wasn’t much of a passer.When the Bulldogs wanted to pass, they usually brought in Matt Robinson. Goff ran for over 700 yards and he only passed for 322 yards and 4 Touchdowns. Ray Goff was more of just a team leader on the Georgia SEC champions of 1976 and they lost to Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl which I wrote about above with Tony Dorsett. The Junkyar Dawgs held in there for a while against Pittsburgh, but the Panthers just had too much talent. After football, Goff got into coaching and was an assistant at South Carolina before returning to Georgia as an assistant. Goff played for Vince Dooley at Georgia and then was an assistant under Dooley. When Vince Dooley retired in 1988, Ray Goff got the head coaching job at Georgia. His teams struggled early on, but in 1991 they posted a 9-3 record and then in 1992 he had his best season with a 10-2 record. But, then, his teams fell apart and he was fired in 1995 after leading the Dogs to a 6-6 record. Classy Florida coach called him Ray Goof which even classier Georgia fans picked up on. This guy was an effective option Quarterback and led the Bulldogs to one of their few SEC championships.

8. Mike Voight – North Carolina: I barely remember Mike Voight which saddens me. I always liked Running Backs that wore the number 44. Voight led the ACC in rushing in 1976 with 1,407 yards and 18 Touchdowns. Over 4 seasons, Voight led the Tar Heels in rushing for 3 straight seasons in 1974, 1975 and 1976. For his career at Chapel Hill, Voight ran for a really nice 4,061 yards and 42

Touchdowns. Voight was the ACC Player of the Year in 1975 and 1976. Voight was a 6-0, 215 power back and was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1977 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. But, Voight only played one season and with the Houston Oilers.

9. Joe Roth – California QB: Roth grew up in San Diego and signed with Grossmont College where he led them to an undefeated season in 1974. He signed with Cal Berkeley for the 1975 season and started at Quarterback for the Golden Bears. The 1975 season was a good year for California and Roth and he led them to an 8-3 season. He positioned himself as a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy in 1976. But, the Golden Bears had a disappointing season. Roth also was a slight let down and threw for more Interceptions than Touchdowns.

Just 3 months after Joe Roth finished playing college football he tragically died of cancer in February of 1977.

10. Jeff Dankworth – UCLA QB: Dankworth followed Hollywood actor and NCIS star Mark

Harmon and All American Quarterback John Sciarra at UCLA. The Bruins ran a ground oriented offense back in those years and Dankworth ran for 815 yards and he passed for 866 yards. The UCLA Bruins were a really good team in 1976 finishing with a 9-2-1 record which got Dankworth enough votes to finish in 10th place in the Heisman voting.

Terry Donahue was in his first year as the head coach at UCLA when the Philadelphia Eagles hired their previous head coach, Dick Vermeil.

 

 

All of these Heisman candidates were either Running Backs, or Quarterbacks.

 

 

 

Some things don’t change.

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