That’s how long it’s been since a Jayhawk received a vote for the Heisman Trophy, when Kansas SR QB David Jaynes finished fourth on the Heisman ballot in 1973. So far, Jaynes is the only Heisman finalist in school history, although Bobby Douglass (1968) and John Hadl (1961) each earned enough first place votes to finish in the top-10.
Even the best quarterback in the best season in school history didn’t have a shot at the Heisman, as Todd Reesing’s 2007 campaign just didn’t stack up numbers-wise to a loaded field of quarterbacks that included Tim Tebow, Colt Brennan, Dennis Dixon, Pat White, and Matt Ryan. Some of the best players in KU history - Sayers, Riggins, Cromwell, Seuer - never came close to the Heisman.
And now, 47 years after Jaynes, do the Jayhawks have a chance?
Looking at the odds, Trevor Lawrence is a clear favorite over the field this fall now that the Big 10+4 and Pac-Whatever are not playing. (Ohio State QB Justin Fields was an early 7/2 favorite.) Pooka is definitely a long-shot, but I’m saying there’s a chance as he’s tied with two other players with the 11th-best odds at 66/1 (+6600). As far as I can find, Todd Reesing was the last Jayhawk with odds like this, at +1800 in the preseason of 2009.
11 of the top 12 on the odds board are quarterbacks, while only 9 of the 32 players on the board are listed as a running back. That said, Pooka currently has the 5th-best odds of the RBs, and any way you want to slice it, this is just more evidence that Pooka is regarded as one of the top RBs in all of college football. After all, Pooka is already on the cusp of breaking several rushing records at Kansas. If he stays healthy this fall and returns for a senior season, those records will fall.
Of the Heisman winners since 2000, all but three have been quarterbacks. But the three who weren’t QBS? All running backs: Derrick Henry (2015), Mark Ingram (2009, and Reggie Bush (2005).
Some more good news: Preseason longshots win the Heisman quite frequently. Last year’s winner, Joe Burrow, was +15,000 in the preseason. Lamar Jackson came out of nowhere to win in 2016, as did Jameis Winston in 2013, Jonny Manziel in 2012, Robert Griffin in 2011, Cam Newton in 2010, Mark Ingram in 2009 - the list goes on. The last running back to win it, Derrick Henry, was at 22/1 in the preseason.
The other thing to consider is that Kansas probably isn’t going to be very good this season. KU’s win total for this season was originally set at 3. (I would think that would change with a 10-game season, but I can’t find an updated number.) That said, expect the Jayhawks to be underdogs in every Big 12 game.
The reason why KU’s record matters is because Heisman trophy candidates don’t typically play on bad teams. The last Heisman winner to play on a losing team was in 1956, and that team was Notre Dame. And only two Heisman winners have come from a team with four or more losses (1935, 1969). But don’t lose all hope; there’s usually at least one candidate receiving votes from non-traditional powers or not great teams:
2018 QB, Will Grier, West Virginia, 8-4 fourth place.
2017 RB, Bryce Love, Stanford, 9-5, second place.
2016 RB, D’Onta Foreman, Texas, 5-7, eighth place.
2014 RB, Tevin Coleman, Indiana, 4-8, seventh place.
2013 RB, Andre Williams, Boston College, 7-6, fourth place.
2013 RB, Kadeem Carey, Arizona, 8-5, tenth place.
2012 WR, Tavon Austin, West Virginia, 7-6, eighth place.
2010 QB, Denard Robinson, Michigan, 7-6, sixth place.
Now before I unleash you into the comments section, let’s do a quick Q&A.
Q: Are you saying Pooka Williams will win the Heisman this year?
Q: So you’re saying Pooka will be a Heisman finalist?
Q: So Pooka finish in the top-10 then?
A: Probably not.
Q: So what are you telling me then?