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After each college season, the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City presents the Heisman Trophy to the top college football player in the United States. Four players are nominated for the award, and a poll of sportswriters determines the winner. The award is named after John William Heisman, an outstanding early college football coach who is credited with several modern innovations, such as the center-quarterback snap and the forward pass. The trophy was first awarded in 1935, and although any position player can win it, the Heisman winner is usually a quarterback, running back, or wide receiver. Winners of the Heisman Trophy who went on to excel in professional football include Paul Hornung, Roger Staubach, Earl Campbell, and Barry Sanders.

Several other awards are given to the nationís best player at specific positions. These include the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award for the best lineman, the Butkus Award for the best linebacker, and the Thorpe Award for the best defensive back.

Year Player Team Position
1935 Jay Berwanger Chicago Halfback
1936 Larry Kelley Yale Defensive End
1937 Clinton Frank Yale Halfback
1938 Davey O'Brien Texas Christian Quarterback
1939 Nile Kinnick Iowa Halfback
1940 Tom Harmon Michigan Halfback
1941 Bruce Smith Minnesota Halfback
1942 Frank Sinkwich Georgia Halfback
1943 Angelo Bertelli Notre Dame Quarterback
1944 Les Horvath Ohio State Quarterback
1945 Doc Blanchard Army Fullback
1946 Glenn Davis Army Halfback
1947 John Lujack Notre Dame Quarterback
1948 Doak Walker Southern Methodist Halfback
1949 Leon Hart Notre Dame Defensive End
1950 Vic Janowicz Ohio State Halfback
1951 Dick Kazmaier Princeton Halfback
1952 Billy Vessels Oklahoma Halfback
1953 John Lattner Notre Dame Halfback
1954 Alan Ameche Wisconsin Fullback
1955 Howard Cassady Ohio State Halfback
1956 Paul Hornung Notre Dame Quarterback
1957 John Crow Texas A&M Halfback
1958 Pete Dawkins Army Halfback
1959 Billy Cannon Louisiana State Halfback
1960 Joe Bellino Navy Halfback
1961 Ernie Davis Syracuse Halfback
1962 Terry Baker Oregon State Quarterback
1963 Roger Staubach Navy Quarterback
1964 John Huarte Notre Dame Quarterback
1965 Mike Garrett USC Running Back
1966 Steve Spurrier Florida Quarterback
1967 Gary Beban UCLA Quarterback
1968 O. J. Simpson USC Running Back
1969 Steve Owens Oklahoma Running Back
1970 Jim Plunkett Stanford Quarterback
1971 Pat Sullivan Auburn Quarterback
1972 Johnny Rodgers Nebraska Flanker
1973 John Cappelletti Penn State Running Back
1974 Archie Griffin Ohio State Running Back
1975 Archie Griffin Ohio State Running Back
1976 Tony Dorsett Pittsburgh Running Back
1977 Earl Campbell Texas Running Back
1978 Billy Sims Oklahoma Running Back
1979 Charles White USC Running Back
1980 George Rogers South Carolina Running Back
1981 Marcus Allen USC Running Back
1982 Herschel Walker Georgia Running Back
1983 Mike Rozier Nebraska Running Back
1984 Doug Flutie Boston College Quarterback
1985 Bo Jackson Auburn Running Back
1986 Vinny Testaverde Miami (FL) Quarterback
1987 Tim Brown Notre Dame Wide Receiver
1988 Barry Sanders Oklahoma State Running Back
1989 Andre Ware Houston Quarterback
1990 Ty Detmer Brigham Young Quarterback
1991 Desmond Howard Michigan Wide Receiver
1992 Gino Torretta Miami (FL) Quarterback
1993 Charlie Ward Florida State Quarterback
1994 Rashaan Salaam Colorado Running Back
1995 Eddie George Ohio State Running Back
1996 Danny Wuerffel Florida Quarterback
1997 Charles Woodson Michigan Cornerback
1998 Ricky Williams Texas Running Back
1999 Ron Dayne Wisconsin Running Back
2000 Chris Weinke Florida State Quarterback
2001 Eric Crouch University of Nebraska Quarterback