Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Stanford’s Bryce Love are the early favorites to win the 2018 Heisman Trophy. Both running backs are coming off stellar campaigns last season. Each has the talent to completely take college football by storm once again.
However, it would take a herculean effort, and probably plus a lot more, from either running back to even come close to the historic Heisman Trophy season from exactly 50 years ago.
After leading the nation in rushing with 1,543 yards and 13 touchdowns and finishing a close runner-up for the Heisman Trophy as a junior in 1967, The Juice compiled 1,880 yards with 23 touchdowns as a senior for USC in 1968.
For his efforts, he won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, and Walter Camp Award.
The fact O.J. Simpson won the game’s most coveted awards was far from the surprise. It was the manner in which he won them that was, and still is, amazing and historic.
Winning the Heisman Trophy by 1,750 points, Simpson still holds record for largest margin of victory and was the first player to ever receive 80 percent of the possible points since the award began in 1935.
To put that into historic perspective, only six players in the last 50 years (seven if you want to include USC star Reggie Bush’s vacated title in 2005) have reached the 80-percent mark.
Only 2006 winner Troy Smith and 2014 winner Marcus Mariota (and Bush, who had the highest percentage of all-time) have ever eclipsed the 90-percent threshold. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, the 2017 winner, received 86 percent of the possible points.
After The Juice won the Heisman Trophy, it took 25 years for a player to reach that 80-percent tally.
Not to mention, Simpson was a mere 200 points away from being the first back-to-back winner before Ohio State’s Archie Griffin accomplished the feat in 1974 and 1975.
Here’s the main point: what O.J. did on the football field was legendary.
Simpson dominated the college game in a way nobody had seen before and then had a record-breaking NFL season in 1973 where he became the fastest player to gain 1,000 yards (seven games) and 2,000 yards (14 games), and averaged a record 143.1 yards per game on his way to earning Most Valuable Player honors.
Of course, Simpson is more known today for the white Bronco chase, the infamous trial following the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, and a host of other legal issues.
Still, it doesn’t dispute his dominance on the gridiron 50 years ago or the fact he set the gold standard for the past greats and today’s stars like Taylor and Love.
And although both are very capable of carrying their way to the game’s highest honor, it is far from guaranteed considering only one running back (Alabama’s Derrick Henry) has won the award since 2010 and only two (three if you count Bush) since 2000.
No matter the statistical feats of the past 20 running backs to win the Heisman Trophy since 1968, O.J. Simpson was still the most dominant.