DeVonta Smith deservedly won the Heisman, but voters have a history of hating on wide receivers

DeVonta Smith deservedly won the Heisman, but voters have a history of hating on wide receivers

2020 Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith.
2020 Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith.
Image: Getty Images

On Tuesday night, amid a global pandemic that sacked college football every week, and during a historic election night in Georgia that will have a long-lasting impact on America, Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy during a very lowkey and virtual ceremony.

Smith became the first receiver to win the award since Michigan’s Desmond Howard did it in 1991, seven years before Smith was born.

“And just to all the young kids out there that’s not the biggest, not the strongest, just keep pushing because I’m not the biggest,” said the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Smith. “I’ve been doubted a lot just because of my size, and really it just comes down to you put your mind to it, you can do it. No job is too big. If you put your mind to it, you can do it, and just keep believing in God, and you’ll get where you want to be.”

To date, Smith has caught 105 passes for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns this season and is an automatic first down as he averages 15.6 yards per catch. As the trophy says, he was “the most outstanding player in college football” this season. But as we know, that’s not usually how the Heisman works as it’s turned into a quarterback award — 20 of them have won it since Howard’s win in 1991.

But since that December night almost 30 years ago, Heisman voters have treated wide receivers like unwanted step-children. They’ve either been passed over for the award or were far too low on the final ballots.

Take a look at how some of the Fred Biletnikoff award winners for the most outstanding wide receiver in college football have fared in Heisman voting over the years:

Saginaw Native. Morehouse Man. Syracuse (Newhouse) Alum. 2019 & 2020 NABJ Award Winner. 2016 PABJ Journalist of the Year. I only eat my wings lemon-peppered. And I like brown liquor & brown women.

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2 / 9

1997: Randy Moss

1997: Randy Moss

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Photo: Getty Images

Moss never had a chance that season, and it’s not his fault. Even after catching 96 passes for 1,820 yards and an insane 26 touchdowns, Moss was just in the wrong class. Moss finished fourth that year in the Heisman as he was behind Ryan Leaf, Peyton Manning, and Charles Woodson — the only defensive player to ever win the award. It’s the greatest Heisman class we’ve ever seen.

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3 / 9

2000: Santana Moss

2000: Santana Moss

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Miami wideout Santana Moss finished seventh in the Heisman voting that year and wasn’t even the clear cut best receiver in the country. Pitt’s Antonio Bryant won the Biletnikoff that season after going for over 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 68 catches. Voters didn’t even place Bryant in their Top 10, as Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke won the award…at the age of 28.

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4 / 9

2002: Charles Rogers

2002: Charles Rogers

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Photo: AP

In the 2003 NFL Draft USC quarterback, and Heisman winner, Carson Palmer was taken No. 1, while Michigan State wideout Charles Rogers was selected No. 2. Logic would tell you that a 6-foot-3 receiver with Olympic track speed that had almost 3,000 receiving yards in only two seasons, caught 27 touchdowns, and averaged 20.9 yards per catch for his career would definitely get some love from Heisman voters, right?

Nope.

Rogers didn’t even break the Top 10.

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5 / 9

2003: Larry Fitzgerald

2003: Larry Fitzgerald

Illustration for article titled DeVonta Smith deservedly won the Heisman, but voters have a history of hating on wide receivers
Image: AP

A felony was committed that year in New York when Larry Fitzgerald had his award stolen from him by voters as they gave his trophy to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. Even after throwing for 40 touchdowns and almost 4,000 yards, White is one of the most forgettable Heisman winners in recent history. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, is on his way to being a first-ballot Hall of Famer. As a redshirt sophomore, Fitzgerald hauled in 92 receptions for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns.

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6 / 9

2004: Braylon Edwards

2004: Braylon Edwards

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Photo: Getty Images

Are you starting to see a trend of how things happened in the early 2000s, yet? That season, it wasn’t so much about how things turned out at the top of the ballot, but more about at the bottom. Michigan’s Braylon Edwards won the Biletnikoff after a year with 97 catches for 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns before being taken as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Somehow, Edwards finished tenth even though he had as many touchdowns as Cal running back J.J. Arrington rushed for over 2,000 yards who came in eighth place. Edwards had his issues in the NFL, but in college he was outstanding.

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7 / 9

2009: Golden Tate

2009: Golden Tate

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Photo: Getty Images

This was the year we knew that a defensive player was never going to win the Heisman again after voters screwed Nebraska defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. With 52 solo tackles, 12 sacks, and an interception, the award undoubtedly should have been Suh’s. Somehow, voters gave it to Alabama running back Mark Ingram even though Stanford tailback Toby Gerhart had 11 more touchdowns and rushed for 200 more yards than he did. But, Notre Dame’s Golden Tate was the biggest loser, as the Irish wideout was 10nth on the ballot despite a season in which he was four yards away from 1500 to go along with 15 touchdowns.

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8 / 9

2015: Corey Coleman

2015: Corey Coleman

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This was the year of the running back, as half of the final ballot was made up of tailbacks as they took the top two spots. Alabama’s Derrick Henry walked away with the award as Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey came in second. In total, the two combined for over 4,200 rushing yards that season. Baylor wideout Corey Coleman was left out of the party as voters failed to place him on the final ballot despite his 20 touchdowns and 1,363 yard-performance that season.

As we approach the 2021 NFL Draft, analysts are predicting that DeVonta Smith has a chance of becoming a top-three pick. If so, Smith will join a group that includes Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Edwards, Fitzgerald, and Rogers as the only receivers that have been drafted No. 3 or higher this century, according to Axios.

Sadly, Smith would also be the only one from that group to have a Heisman Trophy.

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9 / 9

Saginaw Native. Morehouse Man. Syracuse (Newhouse) Alum. 2019 & 2020 NABJ Award Winner. 2016 PABJ Journalist of the Year. I only eat my wings lemon-peppered. And I like brown liquor & brown women.