It makes sense that the majority of the college football players who have won the Heisman Trophy have done so in their senior season, as having four (or, in some cases, five) years to develop your talents obviously puts you in a prime position to become the best player in the country.
However, things have gotten fairly interesting since the mid-2000s, which is when Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to ever take home the award before Sam Bradford became the second underclassman to ever do so the following year.
This trend continued into the 2010s, where only two of the players to take home the Heisman during the decade did so in their senior year. Even more surprisingly, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston both managed to win the award as freshmen and in turn sparked a dialogue concerning how long college athletes should be forced to wait before they play in the NFL.
This discussion only heated up after both Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence played a major hand in securing a national championship for their school during their first year playing college football, and after the former saw his junior campaign cut short this season after falling victim to a debilitating hip injury, plenty of people called for the NFL to rethink its current policy concerning when players are allowed to enter the league.
Prior to 1990, the NFL was the only professional sports league that required college athletes to use up all four years of eligibility before commissioner Paul Tagliabue revised the rulebook to allow prospective pros to declare for the draft following their junior year.
It appears the NCAA is finally on the verge of allowing players to be compensated for their image and likeness, but as things currently stand, the organization does everything in its power to make the lives of its student-athletes as difficult as possible when it comes to supporting themselves.
However, according to USA Today, those unpaid football players may soon have the opportunity to hone their game while actually getting compensated for it, as XFL commissioner Oliver Luck appeared on The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday and said the newly rebooted league may consider allowing athletes who have yet to begin their third year in school sign a contract.
It’s currently unclear what the NCAA’s timeline for the changes it’s proposed is and also unclear how long the XFL is going to last this time around but it’ll certainly be interesting to see if the league can position itself as a viable alternative to the traditional route to the NFL over the next few years.