Question: How do you define a Heisman bust?

How did it come to pass that college glory years are weighed against Super Bowl expectations?


Published: Thursday, December 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 16, 2004 at 1:01 a.m.

Sometimes I think I'm too easily perturbed. Maybe I need a course in irritation management.

But a lot of things bother me. The BCS, Jessica Simpson, David Lee shooting threes, the designated hitter being used in American League parks during the World Series, Christmas music in November, litterbugs, drivers who tailgate, NFL pre-game shows, tardiness, slow play on the golf course and people who stop to chat in walkways . . . just to name a few.

Here's another one, and it happens every December before and after the Heisman Trophy is awarded. You get the Heisman Busts lists.

What a crock.

For some reason, there are enough knuckleheads out there who truly believe that if you win the Heisman and don't go Peyton Manning on the NFL, you are a bust.

The Heisman is awarded to the best player in college football. Well, not really. It goes to one of the skill players on one of the top five teams in America.

But it does not go to the player who most likely will become an All-Pro at the next level. Still, if you win the stiff-arm and the league stiff-arms you back, you are considered a bust, a flop, a washout.

How absurd.

It's a different league, man. It's a different game. College success doesn't translate into professional success automatically in any sport, in anything. I mean, you might have been able to get dates in college because you could chug a 24-ouncer, but that probably won't get you far in the world of suits.

Still, I see these lists and it bugs me.

Especially because almost all of them include Danny Wuerffel.

Bust? Let's see, he played in one college game after winning the Heisman Trophy. In that game, his team scored 52 points.

Doesn't sound like a bust to me.

If you want to talk about players who won the award and then flopped in their bowl games, then you might be on the right track as far as the Heisman jinx goes.

Chris Weinke's team scored zero offensive points in the game he played after winning. Vinny Testaverde threw five interceptions to Penn State as a Heisman winner. Jason White played poorly against LSU, but he has washed that away by going 12-0 this year.

I wouldn't go as far as to call those players Heisman busts, but at least their post-trophy flops were at the same level of competition. Based on that, Wuerffel may have been the greatest Heisman success ever.

And, oh yes, there is this. He's happily married with a child. He works in one of the toughest areas in New Orleans for the Desire Street Ministries where he helps children get through life and occasionally tosses a football around.

"There are so many ways to define what success is," he said. "I went from everyone saying I couldn't make it in the league to making it. Everyone was saying the average career is two years and I played for seven. And beyond that, there are so many more things where it's important to be successful."

Doesn't sound like a bust to me.

I called Wuerffel on Wednesday because this Heisman Bust thing was getting under my skin. As usual, he shrugged it off.

"I've never seen one of those lists," he said. "Maybe it helps not to pay attention."

The point is that Wuerffel, like many of his Heisman brethren, is not a bust just because he didn't make an impact in the NFL.

Neither is Charlie Ward, the FSU quarterback who is still playing in the NBA.

Nor Archie Griffin, who has more years working for the Ohio State athletic department than NFL touchdowns.

Nor Eric Crouch, who is working in television after giving back part of his bonus when he left the Rams.

Nor Andre Ware, who is an ESPN analyst for college football.

OK, so they never made a Pro Bowl. Crouch never even played a down in the NFL.

But they all have one thing (two things in the case of Griffin) that allows them to puff out their chests, one thing that separates them from everyone else who has played college football. It will stay with them forever.

It's not a curse. It's not a jinx.

They are not busts.

If Matt Leinart struggles at the next level, it won't take away what happened to him Saturday.

So stow those lists, boys and girls.

Besides, there's only one true, never a doubt, bona fide Heisman bust.

His name is O.J. Simpson.

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