2020 Heisman Trophy winner: Alabama’s DeVonta Smith becomes first WR to win award since 1991
The premier award in college football has largely been held hostage by quarterbacks and running backs for the better part of the last three decades. Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith changed all of that Tuesday night as he was named winner of the 2020 Heisman Trophy, becoming the first pass-catcher to be named college football’s best player in 29 years.
Smith beat out three fellow Heisman finalists — all quarterbacks — in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Alabama’s Mac Jones and Florida’s Kyle Trask for the nation’s top honor. In doing so, he is the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991.
With only Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson serving as an exception in 1997, a quarterback or running back has won the Heisman in 27 of the last 28 years, including 22 straight from 1998-2019. Smith’s victory also breaks a streak of four straight quarterbacks that have won the award.
Smith’s statistical accomplishments throughout the 2020 season have been unmatched, and the impact he has made for No. 1 Alabama has been immeasurable. He has tallied 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, averaging 15.6 yards for each of his 105 receptions. Smith also scored a touchdown each rushing and as a punt returner, giving him 22 total scores on the year. He accomplished this despite not opening the season as the Crimson Tide’s top receiver with more pressure put on his shoulders following an injury to teammate Jaylen Waddle.
Smith is a primary reason why Alabama is set to compete in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday against No. 3 Ohio State. He is one of three Tide players who received Heisman votes this season along with Jones and running back Najee Harris.
Lawrence entered 2020 as the preseason Heisman favorite, though COVID-19 issues limited his appearances. Trask was the Heisman favorite for the largest portion of the season — at one point alongside Jones — but a disappointing finish in Trask’s final two games saw his momentum fall sharply despite his FBS-best quarterback stats.
Smith is expected to be one of the top players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has scored 43 touchdowns through the air and amassed 3,750 yards receiving in his collegiate career, averaging 16.8 yards per reception.