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Tuesday, October 1, 2002
Updated: October 3, 2:07 PM ET
The List: Biggest Heisman flops

Page 2 staff

This week we're looking at some of college football's best who went bust in the pros. Page 2 has compiled our list of the top 10 Heisman Trophy winning flops in history.

Andre Ware
Andre Ware threw for 46 TDs in college but completed just 83 passes in the NFL.
Check out our list of the 10 biggest Heisman flops of all time, and then see how our readers' ranked their picks. And be sure to vote in the poll to crown the No. 1 Heisman bust in history.

1. Andre Ware (University of Houston, 1989)
In his junior season at Houston, Ware set major college records by throwing for 4,699 yards and 46 TDs, leading the Cougars to a 9-2 record. He declared for the NFL draft, forgoing his senior year, confident that he had impressed NFL scouts. After one pre-draft workout, a scout declared, "Gentlemen, we are looking at the next great quarterback in the National Football League."

'Twasn't to be. The Lions picked Ware in the first round of the 1990 draft, and gave him a $1 million signing bonus. But Ware rarely got off the bench in his four NFL seasons with Detroit and Minnesota. Ware's career totals: 83 completions in 161 attempts for 1,112 yards and five touchdowns. When Ware signed with the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders in 1995, his former coach at Houston, Jack Pardee, said, "Andre is going to be great in this league." Wrong. Ware's short, three-team CFL career ended in 1997, when he had the honor of watching from the bench as Doug Flutie led the Toronto Argonauts to a Grey Cup victory.

2. Rashaan Salaam (Colorado, 1994)
Rashaan Salaam
Rashaan Salaam's NFL career disintegrated after a good rookie year with the Bears.
Salaam had one of the best seasons ever for a college running back as a junior in 1994, rushing for 2,055 yards, becoming just the fourth major college player to top 2,000 yards. That year, the Buffaloes went 11-1, including a 41-24 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, a game in which Salaam scored three touchdowns. The Bears used the 21st pick in the 1995 draft on Salaam, and his rookie season was excellent -- he ran for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns. Then, hampered by what he later said was a marijuana addiction, Salaam ran for less than 500 yards in 1996 and played only three games in 1997 before breaking his leg and tearing an ankle ligament. Salaam was notorious for fumbling -- in 31 games for the Bears, he turned over the ball 14 times. He tried to come back a few times, first with the Raiders, then with the Browns. In 2001, he proved himself one of the best runners in the XFL, piling up 528 yards for the Memphis Maniax, the fourth-highest total in the league's short history.

3. Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1996)
Wuerffel capped a 10,000-plus-yard throwing career at Florida in his senior year, when he threw for 3,625 yards and 39 TDs while leading the Gators to a national championship. Now, he's reunited with his former Florida coach, Steve Spurrier, who dealt for Wuerffel shortly after he took over as Redskins head coach.

Wuerffel had been selected in the fourth round of the 1997 draft by the Saints; in three seasons with New Orleans, he played in only 18 games, tossing 126 completions in 258 passes for 1,404 yards. The Saints cut him after the 2000 season, and the 'Skins got him earlier this year from the Texans in exchange for backup defensive tackle Jerry DeLoach. But Wuerffel has yet to start for the Redskins, thanks, in part, to a disastrous display in the 'Skins final exhibition game, against the Patriots, when he fumbled three times. "They popped him, and he usually fumbled," said Spurrier. "I asked him, 'Why are you fumbling all the time?' And he said, 'I don't know.'" Spurrier added, "Right now, he's not our best one to go play, in my opinion."

4. Eric Crouch (Nebraska, 2001)
Eric Crouch
Eric Crouch called it quits before ever playing in one NFL game.
In his senior year as a Cornhusker, Crouch led Nebraska to an 11-2 record, completing 105 of 189 passes for 1,510 yards and seven touchdowns. Even more impressive were his rushing stats -- 203 carries for 1,115 yards and 18 TDs. He was picked in the third round by the Rams, 95th overall in the 2002 draft. The Rams planned to convert Crouch into a wide receiver, but he retired on Sept. 11 without having played a down in the NFL. Crouch had been beset with hamstring, ankle, thigh, and shoulder injuries, which slowed him up enough, according to his agent, that he didn't feel he could play at full speed.

Jay Zigmunt, Rams president of football operations, was blindsided. "It's pretty shocking," he said. "We're as surprised by this as anyone. All I can say is it's a first for me. Eric was nicked up a bit, but Mike (Martz) felt he was progressing. It certainly surprised all of us."

5. Pat Sullivan (Auburn, 1971)
Sullivan was a great college QB. He led the NCAA in total offense in 1970, and in his 30 games as a Tiger starter he threw for 6,284 yards, including 53 TDs, and ran for 18 scores. After he won the 1971 Heisman, the Falcons selected him in the second round. He played only four seasons as a backup quarterback for Atlanta, completing just 42 percent of his 220 career passes, while throwing only five touchdowns against 16 interceptions. His career QB rating: 36.5.

6. Gino Torretta (University of Miami, 1992)
NFL teams weren't exactly hot on the QB in the 1993 draft -- he slid through the first six rounds before the Vikings finally picked him up in the seventh. He played in one game for the Vikings in 1993, then resurfaced three years later where he had the pro game of his life, completing 5 of 16 passes for 41 yards and one TD. He also ran twice for 12 yards. That was Torretta's NFL career. But there are other stats, as well. He was waived no less than eight times by five teams, including a Billy Martinesque four times by the 49ers. Still, in late 1997, Torretta remained optimistic. After putting in a one-week stint for the Colts, he told SI he'd keep trying. "I have no timetable. I still have the skills. It's just a matter of getting the right opportunity and taking advantage of it. I'm going to keep doing it until teams say I can't do it anymore."

7. Gary Beban (UCLA, 1967)
Beban had a good season in 1967, throwing for 1,359 yards and eight touchdowns, as UCLA finished 7-2-1. He was drafted in the second round of the 1968 draft by the Rams, who dealt him to the Redskins. In Washington, he played only five games in '68 and '69, throwing one pass (incomplete), running five times for 18 yards, and catching one pass for 12 yards. Finishing second in the 1967 Heisman voting: Southern California's O.J. Simpson. Finishing fourth: Dolphins future great Larry Csonka.

8. Terry Baker (Oregon State, 1962)
Baker deserved to win the Heisman in 1962, when he was also named SI's "Sportsman of the Year." At QB, Baker led the Beavers to a 9-2 record his senior year, finishing his college career with 3,476 yards and 23 TD passes. The Rams drafted Baker in the first round, but in his first NFL season, he played little at his old position, completing 11 of 19 passes for 140 yards. Then the Rams tried to turn him into a running back, an experiment that failed, as he rushed 49 times for only 164 yards in 1964 and 1965 combined. By 1966, Baker was out of the NFL.

9. John Huarte (Notre Dame, 1964)
Huarte's Notre Dame career consisted, really, of one good season. As a sophomore and junior, he rode the bench, and didn't become starting QB until Ara Parseghian became head coach in 1964. The Irish were only 2-7 in 1963, but in 1964, with Huarte running the offense, Notre Dame went 9-1. Huarte threw the ball 205 times for 2,062 yards, averaging 10-plus yards per attempt. The Jets picked Huarte in the second round of the AFL draft (they picked Joe Namath, who finished 11th in the Heisman voting, in the first round) but quickly waived him goodbye without much fanfare. Huarte did play parts of seven NFL seasons, but spent most of his time on taxi squads.

Among the players who finished behind Huarte in the Heisman voting: Dick Butkus (third) and Gale Sayers (12th).

10. Joe Bellino (Navy, 1960)
In college, Bellino could have been the poster boy for The All-Around Player. In 1960, the Navy halfback ran for 834 yards, caught 15 passes for 264 yards and three TDs, threw two touchdown passes, averaged 47.1 yards as a punter, and returned kicks and punts. He scored 18 TDs, leading Navy to a 9-1 record. The Patriots didn't risk much when they picked him in the 1961 AFL draft. They waited until the 19th round, knowing that he had to serve four years in the military before he could play pro football. He finally took the playing field in Boston in 1965, and began an incredibly unremarkable three-year AFL career, rushing 30 times for 64 yards, and scoring one touchdown.

Also receiving votes:
  • Ty Detmer (BYU, 1990)
  • Mike Rozier (Nebraska, 1983)
  • Desmond Howard (Michigan, 1991)
  • Charlie Ward (Florida State, 1993)
  • Archie Griffin (Ohio State, 1974 and 1975)