Apr 28, 2012; Lawrence, KS, USA; A general view of Memorial Stadium before the Kansas Jayhawks Spring Game. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
Kansas football isn't a historical powerhouse on the football field. Success has come in waves and it's been fleeting, but as with any program there have been some notable players and single season performances. The Heisman trophy is an award that is obviously designed to honor great season's and while the Jayhawks haven't had a winner or a finalist, are there players in Kansas football's past that would have made a viable candidate?
List off the Jayhawks that seem like they could have had seasons worthy of Heisman consideration and it looks like this; Gale Sayers, John Riggins, Nolan Cromwell, Todd Reesing and maybe Frank Seuer.
Truthfully, in a day and age full of video game numbers it's almost hard to imagine anyone receiving consideration outside of Reesing when you look at the single season performances of the others. Place them in the context of their time and place and it makes it a little more viable.
Sayers ran for over 1125 yards in a 10 game season in 1962. That wouldn't have been enough to overcome Heisman winner Terry Baker who contributed nearly 5000 yards to the Beaver offense, but should Sayers have made the list of finalists? Unfortunately that doesn't look likely. The last place vote getter was BYU's Eldon Fortie who contributed 1900 yards out of the BYU backfield.
So what about John Riggins in 1970? 1131 Yards in 11 games. Stanford's Jim Plunkett would win the Heisman beating out Joe Theisman and Archie Manning with nearly 3000 yards passing on the season. Don McCauley was the lowest vote getter at the running back position checking in at 9th in the voting. McCauley led the nation in rushing yardage with 1720. Again, probably not a great argument for Riggins.
So what about Nolan Cromwell in 1975? Over 1000 yards rushing but virtually nothing produced through the air. Unfortunately that just doesn't cut it at quarterback and as a runner his yardage doesn't even remotely stack up to what Ohio State's Archie Griffin produced.
Frank Seuer was the passing leader at Kansas before Todd Reesing came along. His 1983 senior season was his best with over 2700 yards and 14 touchdowns. Unfortunately Seuer also had 19 interceptions. Nebraska's Mike Rozier was the winner, former Kansas coach Turner Gill checkin in at 4th in the voting as a quarterback. Gill threw for around 1500 yards, 14 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. He also ran for 11 more touchdowns. Again, hard to see Seuer fitting in given where the bar is set.
Last chance is Todd Reesing and this is honestly the best and most viable option in Kansas history. 2007 wasn't Reesing's biggest year yardage wise but Kansas finished near the top of the Big 12 which was in itself a huge boost to his resume. Throw in 3400 yards, 33 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions and you have a player that can become part of the discussion. Tim Tebow won the award that year and Pat White was the quarterback finishing the lowest in the top 10. White accounted for just over 3000 yards in total offense with 28 touchdowns. They are different types of players but the contributions are very similar. Reesing was maybe one win in the regular season away from really boosting his argument but that just didn't happen.
Add in the fact that Reesing and Kansas both came out of nowhere in 2007 and it probably wasn't the recipe for huge Heisman consideration but Reesing would have to be considered the most viable candidate as a finalist during his time at Kansas.
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