Georgia's Brock Bowers is unanimously considered to be one of the best offensive weapons in the country, but can he compete for college football's highest individual honor? As a tight end, history says it's unlikely but not quite impossible.
Bowers had his best game of the season on Saturday as he hauled in eight catches for 157 yards, and the game-winning touchdown just before the 2-minute mark of the fourth quarter to sink Auburn's upset bid. That play — as well as others throughout his career — have people wondering just how high he could fly, so let's take a look at how tight ends have fared in Heisman voting in years past.
BROCK BOWERS PUTTING THE TEAM ON HIS BACK. pic.twitter.com/l53cIIQ0xR
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 30, 2023
Have Any Tight Ends Won the Heisman?
The second-ever winner of the Heisman Trophy — and the first to earn it with that particular name applied — was Larry Kelley, a tight end for Yale, which had one of the most dominant programs of his era. Kelley took home the honor in 1936, and he wasn't just a tight end — he contributed on defense, too, playing 1,298 of the total 1,500 minutes of games for the Bulldogs during his three years with the team. His competition for the trophy included Hall of Famers Sammy Baugh and Ace Parker, but Kelley still won the prestigious honor by a wide margin.
The second and most recent tight end to win it was Leon Hart, who secured the honor for Notre Dame in 1949. Hart also went on to become the first pick in the NFL draft, as he was selected by the Detroit Lions — and, amazingly enough, helped Detroit secure three NFL championships. Hart's career with the Fighting Irish began when he was just 17 years old, and his Heisman season was a truly special end to an incredible tenure. The Irish went 46-0-2 while Hart was in South Bend and secured three national championships. The year he won the Heisman, he also secured the Associated Press Athlete of the Year award, as he narrowly beat trailblazing Brooklyn Dodgers star Jackie Robinson.
Since then, no tight ends have won the Heisman Trophy, although there have been a couple of finalists and relatively close calls. Michigan's Ron Kramer was a top 10 finisher in both 1955 and '56, but never finished inside the top 5. Ted Kwalick from Penn State finished in fourth back in 1968, as earned 14 first-place votes but came up short in a year when USC legend O.J. Simpson secured the honor. Notre Dame almost got another tight end Heisman in 1977 as unanimous All-American Ken MacAfee earned 55 first-place votes but finished third in the vote in a year when the trophy went to the bruising Texas running back Earl Campbell.
Since MacAfee's bid nearly 50 years ago, no tight ends have finished in the top 10 of Heisman voting. Bowers is off to a solid start to the year, but to break the no-tight-end trend, he'll likely need to up his production to over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns. He's sitting at 413 yards and three touchdowns, with five games down and as many as eight to go before voting concludes, if the Bulldogs win the SEC East and earn a spot in the conference championship game. Georgia's remaining schedule is pretty easy; so with his talent, Bowers has every ability to make a push to get onto the stage this December when the Heisman ceremony takes place.
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