For the first time since 2015, a quarterback hasn’t won the Heisman Trophy, and for the first time since 1991, a wide receiver has. That would be Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (seen above celebrating after the Tide’s Jan. 1 Rose Bowl win, where he was named offensive MVP), who was named a finalist alongside three quarterbacks: his teammate Mac Jones, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, and Florida’s Kyle Trask. Smith finished with 1,856 points in the voting, ahead of Lawrence (1,187), Jones (1,130) and Trask (737), and he became the first receiver to win the award since Michigan’s Desmond Howard (currently an ESPN analyst) back in 1991.
On the season so far, Smith has 105 receptions for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns, an average of 15.6 yards per catch. He also has a rushing touchdown and a punt return touchdown. But it’s his receiving stats that particularly stand out, especially as he finished more than 400 yards ahead of the next-highest Division I receiver (Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore, who had 1,193 yards on 86 catches). And he particularly shone in the late going following an Oct. 24 injury to teammate Jaylen Waddle. With Waddle out, Smith received even more targets, and he responded in a big way, posting 73 yards in the game where Waddle was hurt, then 203, 144, 171, 231, 22, 184, and 130. He was Alabama’s most important offensive weapon down the stretch, and that was a big part of this vote. Here’s the reaction of Smith’s family and friends to the news:
DeVonta Smith’s family and friends had the best reaction to him winning the Heisman. ❤️🏆
— theScore (@theScore) January 6, 2021
Over the years, only four players listed as wide receivers have won the Heisman; Smith, Howard, Notre Dame’s Tim Brown (in 1987) and Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers (in 1972). And Rodgers was also a running back (although he posted significantly more receiving yards than rushing yards). Thus, this hasn’t often been an award that has recognized receivers, and it’s mostly recognized just quarterbacks and running backs recently; the last non-QB, non-RB to win was Michigan DB and returner Charles Woodson in 1997, and the last non-QB to win was Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015. So it’s definitely notable to see Smith added to this list.
[CBS; photo from Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports]