Oral history of 1997 heisman

Submitted by Lumpy_wolverine on December 6th, 2017 at 10:54 AM

Here's an article on the 1997 Heisman race.  As a UM alum living in Knoxville, I found it to be interesting.  For those not in this part of the country, it gives a taste of how pepole here still feel the sting.


I found most interesting Randy Moss' explanation for the sunglasses.




December 6th, 2017 at 11:12 AM ^

That guy is a character to say the least.  There is his quote, and then what he really says, which is "yeah, Manning was pretty good, but Tennessee still sucked.  I guess he probably should have won it because Michigan sucked even worse than Tennessee, and they sucked hard."


December 6th, 2017 at 11:13 AM ^

But I have never understood how anyone who watched college football in 1997 would have thought that Peyton Manning was the best player in the game.  His entire offense consisted of throwing slants to Peerless Price, who would run 70 yards with them because Tennessee played nobody except Florida.  And Peyton sure looked great in the Orange Bowl (admittedly, after the award was handed out).

I think the Tennessee fans expected it as a Lifetime Achievement Award, plus they have an overinflated view of Tennessee football and can't fathom why no Volunteer has ever won it.


December 6th, 2017 at 11:25 AM ^

287 for 477 that year with 3,919 yards, 37 TDs and 11 INTs.  They beat three ranked teams and won the SEC.  The lost to #1 Florida on the road and the eventual co-national champion.  A pretty good case can be made......

I think Woodson should have won it, no argument there, but the season than Manning had wins it 9 times out 10.  He just happened to have that season at the same time that a Football Superhero was catching TDs, returning punts, fighting crime and intercepting moonballs on the way to the National Championship.


December 6th, 2017 at 11:30 AM ^

I was thrilled whn Woodson won it, and I believe that he deserved it.  But we don't need to minimize Peyton's accomplishments.  In most years, Manning would have won it.  You can't compare across eras, etc., but look at the three top candidates this year.  Would any of them deserve the Heisman over Peyton Manning?



December 6th, 2017 at 11:44 AM ^

12-1 record, 41:5 TD:INT ratio, 71%, 4340 yards passing, 11.8 yards per attempt, and planting a flag at Ohio Stadium (garners extra points for me.) Plus 310 yards and 5 TDs rushing. QB rating of 203.8.

Compare that to Manning. 11-1 at this point in the season, 36:11 TD:INT, 60% passer, 8.0 yards per attempt, no flag at Ohio Stadium. -30 yards and 3 TDs rushing. QB rating of 147.7.

That's an awful lot for "different eras" to make up.




December 6th, 2017 at 11:33 AM ^

That's a 60% completion percentage and 8.2 ypa.  The touchdown to interception ratio is good, but, as I said -- there were an awful lot of short passes with a lot of YAC.

Ryan Leaf was 227/410 (55%) for 3968 yards, 34 TDs and 11 INTs (9.7 ypa).  And nobody seriously thought he was the best player in college football except for the San Diego Chargers front office staff.

One of those "ranked opponents," BTW, was #24 Southern Mississippi.

Don't get me wrong -- Peyton was a fine football player, and his senior year was perfectly serviceable.  But Charles Woodson was a generational talent who had the best all-around season that year in college football, and it wouldn't really have been close if anybody in the southeast watched football from the north.


December 6th, 2017 at 11:37 AM ^

I am saying is that Manning had a season worthy of Heisman consideration as a stand-alone campaign.  I don't think he was given Heisman consideration as a "lifetime acheivement award," he deserved to be a top contender for that season alone.  I think Woodson should have won it, but I can't call somebody crazy if they voted for Manning.


December 6th, 2017 at 11:51 AM ^

was in contention for the same reason Bosa beat Hurst for B1G defensive lineman of the year. His last name had a lot to do with the Manning hype. It's similar to the Heisman bump a player gets from playing at Notre Dame. A QB rating of 147 is good but it's not elite. That would put him in 26th place this season, one point ahead of Alex Hornibrook.



December 6th, 2017 at 12:02 PM ^

This is somewhat misleading, because spread-to-pass offenses are basically tailor-made to get a high passing efficiency value.  However, I don't think all 27 of those QBs are running spread-to-pass. :)


December 6th, 2017 at 12:20 PM ^

Looking back at the stats, what stood out was Ryan Leaf putting up basically the same numbers as Manning. I obviously am biased towards Woodson, however, the fact Leaf matched Manning's numbers in the same season even further validates that Manning was not head and shoulders better than everyone else that year. 

CRISPed in the DIAG

December 6th, 2017 at 12:15 PM ^

At the time I recall there being more of a debate re Leaf/Manning than this. Leaf might have been penalized in the Heisman vote for playing in a spread offense against weaker Pac10 defenses. The draft debate raged on sports talk radio up until the draft.


December 6th, 2017 at 11:21 AM ^

The comments following the piece still rely on the old "SEC Football" meme.  In 1997, the SEC was not a premier conference.  They had a good/great team or two each year, but from top to bottom it was no where near as good as it has been lately (this year excepted).


December 6th, 2017 at 11:46 AM ^

I'm the last person to defend Vol fans but the next two years, the trophy WAS given out mostly as a Lifetime Achievement Award, Ricky Williams in 98 and Ron Dayne in 99.  Though Dayne won it by default because of Peter Warrick's issues with the law.

But Bob Griese brought it up best when he made comparisons between Woodson and Desmond.  He said, "You have to make big plays in the biggest game."  Woodson did that against OSU.  Manning did NOT do that against Florida. 



December 6th, 2017 at 12:31 PM ^

I remember the discussion regarding Ricky Williams & Ron Dayne being more life time achievement. But when I looked at the stats from the other contenders for the Heisman those two seasons, there is not really someone else who jumps out as being robbed. Both Williams & Dayne had good seasons (and broke a key NCAA record) while no one else really stood out. I think that is why the said it was life time achievement, when in reality it was having a good year when no one else had great years. 



Other Andrew

December 6th, 2017 at 11:34 AM ^

The South contingent claim "we all know Peyton was better." And "it's all the media's fault." This has been a common narrative ever since - that ABC wanted Woodson to win to better promote their football product. There's certainly a cultural aspect to this, and it continues with the "ESS EEE SEE"-ing of their region.

FWIW, Brian addressed this debate rather definitively in 2009:


Also, the piece incorrectly says that Woodson caught  TD pass against OSU. They were perhaps thinking of Penn State, or should have written "set up their only offensive TD."

Also also, man, Florida was really good to us that year. Opened the Heisman door against Manning and then later upset FSU on the day of The Game.


December 6th, 2017 at 11:37 AM ^

Thanks for the link.  Brian' take was, as usual, snarky but clear and perceptive.  Money quote:


"Most years Peyton Manning would have been a slam dunk. He'd be a more deserving winner than 80% of the guys who actually got the trophy. But he had the misfortune to run up against the only compelling (primarily) defensive player in the history of the award."


December 6th, 2017 at 11:32 AM ^

I wrote a post for HSR that explained what made Woodson special (which, humblebrag, got picked up by the Heisman Trust to use in their 2007 Heisman Dinner program, when they also honor their 10th, 25th, and 50th anniversary winners.)

Here's the key stats, from my POV:

Woodson played in all three phases of the game, on the field for a remarkable 765 plays during the 1997 regular season, 152 of those coming on offense or special teams. During 1997 alone, he had seven interceptions, and while he did not make any of them a pick six, he did his damage on that front on special teams with his punt return against the Buckeyes in the season closer at Michigan Stadium. He also killed 
's first drive of the second half with a pick in the end zone. In the biggest games, when 
 needed him the most, Woodson seemed to find a way to shine. All of this from a man who was likely being game planned away from and generally thrown away from after being an All-American his Sophomore year. Of the 15 times Woodson touched the ball on offense in 1997, 
Michigan scored three touchdowns and picked up nine first downs.


December 6th, 2017 at 11:40 AM ^

I'd like to see Peyton Manning "jump fifteen feet in the air, come down acrobatically, and get his foot into this football field."  I mean, Charles Woodson intercepted a pass that was being thrown out of bounds.  Then he beat OSU, pretty-much singlehandedly.  On the other hand, Peyton Manning invented a special pout -- the Manning Face -- when things don't go his way.

CRISPed in the DIAG

December 6th, 2017 at 12:20 PM ^

We saw it for the first time at on Heisman night. At the moment Chuck won, the entire Manning family looked like smelled burned microwave popcorn in the break room. I'd split a pizza and buy a pitcher of domestic beer with anyone that can post that screen shot.


December 6th, 2017 at 11:46 AM ^

All I remember from the ceremony is looking at Randy Moss and thinking; I don't want to make that dude angry. That was some serious Matrix-y **** he was wearing.


December 6th, 2017 at 12:05 PM ^

Was a fantastic day for Michigan sports.


We screwed the SEC via Peyton at the Downtown Athletic Club and we screwed the ACC by coming back from a double-digit deficit to beat #1 Dook.


My oral history that day - lots of kegged beer going down the gullet.


December 6th, 2017 at 12:55 PM ^

That's all I care about. 

Also, Michigan had a murderous end to the season @PSU, @Wisc, OSU.  Woodson was awesome in each of those games.  He was big time in all the big games.