Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Former Winners Have Heisman Say; in a Unique Setup, Past Recipients of the Award Vote on Who Will Be Next

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Former Winners Have Heisman Say; in a Unique Setup, Past Recipients of the Award Vote on Who Will Be Next

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

Every year, beginning in mid-November, Chris Weinke eagerly sifts through his daily mail.

The former Florida State quarterback is looking for the big cardboard envelope with the New York return address. In it is his Heisman Trophy ballot.

When it finally arrives, Weinke tears it open as enthusiastically as he did his presents on Christmas morning as a boy growing up in St. Paul, Minn.

"It just kind of reiterates the fact of how important this thing [the Heisman Trophy] really is," Weinke said. "To be able to be a part of it is special."

Weinke has a Heisman Trophy ballot because he also has a Heisman. It's one of the little-known, unique perks of winning the award. Winners of the Cy Young Award, Gold Gloves or PGA Tour Player of the Year have no say in future recipients of those awards, but past Heisman winners do in naming college football's best player.

The practice began in 1972, the first year the award ceremony was televised. According to Rudy Riska, director emeritus to The Heisman Foundation and former athletic director of The Downtown Athletic Club, lawyers for CBS were concerned about the unequal distribution of voters across the country. In response, Heisman officials revamped the process, adding a sixth voting region (Mid-Atlantic), placing 145 media votes in each region and giving ex-winners a vote.

According to Heisman officials, there are 54 living winners with votes this year. That includes Weinke, former UF coach and quarterback Steve Spurrier, former UF quarterback Danny Wuerffel and former FSU quarterback Charlie Ward. It also includes former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who receives one vote even though he's the only two-time winner of the award.

Participation is close to 100 percent, Heisman coordinator Tim Henning said.

"Almost close to all of them vote every year," he said. "They all take voting very seriously and know they're voting for the outstanding player of the year in college football. What that means in every person's mind is different."

That also means there will be the same voting discrepancies among the past winners as there are among the media voters. Some might favor an upperclassman over an underclassman. Some might favor a player on a team that's in contention for the national title. Some might take a player's entire career into consideration before voting.

Regardless, most former winners see the chance to vote as an honor.

"It would be irresponsible if you didn't take that honor seriously," said Wuerffel, who said he has voted every year since winning the award in 1996.

Other Heisman voters appear to have no issue with past winners having a voice and see the practice as a great way to continue the award's heritage.

"I don't have a problem with it," said Wendell Barnhouse of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. …

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