Folsom Graduate Jake Browning Has A Chance To Join A Very Short List of NorCal Heisman Trophy Winners
Northern California didn’t have much of a connection to the Heisman Trophy for the first 30 years in which college football‘s most prestigious award was handed out, but then hit the gold mine three times in four years.
Before 1967, when UCLA quarterback Gary Beban (a graduate of Sequoia-Redwood City) finished first and USC junior running back O.J. Simpson (from Galileo-San Francisco) was second, the highest NorCal finisher in Heisman voting that began in 1936 was Notre Dame running back Nick Eddy (he’s from Tracy) with a third-place total in 1966.
Then in the following year (1968) after Beban’s victory, Simpson was a runaway winner. In fact, Simpson’s margin of votes between first and second is still the most in the history of the Heisman.
Without dwelling on Simpson for obvious reasons, it only took one more year until 1970 when NorCal made it three Heismans in four years. That one was won by Stanford quarterback Jim Plunkett, who went to high school at James Lick-San Jose.
The only other Heisman winner from Northern California is Gino Torretta, who is from Pinole Valley-Pinole. He won in a controversial, close vote in 1992 over San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk.
So why bring up the Heisman now?
That’s because the Heisman hype is well under way right now for the University of Washington’s Jake Browning. A player many of us at Cal-Hi Sports and SportStars watched for three seasons not that long ago at Folsom.
While Browning’s seemingly unreachable state and national career records actually may be within reach of Mater Dei-Santa Ana’s J.T. Daniels (because he’s going to have four varsity seasons not just three), his success for the Huskies is not surprising.
If Browning were to finish even second in this year’s Heisman voting. He’d be the highest finisher ever among anyone from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. The highest so far is Roseville’s Robbie Bosco, a quarterback at BYU who was third in 1984 and 1985.
Browning would only have to finish higher than fifth to be the best Heisman vote getter from Northern California since 2007 when Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon (San Leandro grad) was fifth.
The only players to get Heisman votes since Dixon was fifth have been USC linebacker Rey Maualuga (Eureka) in 2008, Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Pitman-Turlock) in 2010 and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright (Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa) in 2014.
The highest finishers since Torretta in 1992 have been UCLA quarterback Cade McNown of San Benito-Hollister (third in 1998) and Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey of Miramonte-Orinda (third in 2001).
McNown also was the one who was more highly-regarded as a high school prospect in his senior year. Also, he was picked in the NFL Draft of 1999 a lot higher than another quarterback from Northern California named Tom Brady (Serra-San Mateo).
While the Heisman hype and Heisman itself is great, as Brady has proved, it’s still just one of several starting points for any player. It’s always what one does every day, every week and every season to get better that counts most in the end.