By Maleesa Johnson
Almost everyone who was either attending Baylor or a fan of the Bears in 2011 can tell you where they were the evening they watched Robert Griffin III receive the Heisman. The chant from that night still echoes in Baylor’s history: “RG3, RG3!”
The following Heisman award ceremonies do not spark the same fond memories. In 2012, Johnny Manziel took home the trophy for Texas A&M. The following year, Jameis Winston, quarterback for Florida State, was awarded the Heisman. In addition to a spectacular display of athletes in college, these players also have something else in common: run-ins with the law.
In the summer of 2012, Manziel was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors—disorderly conduct, failure to identify himself and possession of a fake ID. He pleaded guilty for failure to identify, and the other two charges were dismissed. He followed up that performance with a successful season as starting quarterback. In December, he received the Heisman. His poor behavior did not end that season. This year he was fined $12,000 for flipping off the opposing bench during a preseason game against the Redskins.
While Jameis Winston doesn’t have a rap sheet, he has an equal, if not greater, propensity toward scandal. The sexual assault complaint against him remained in the news and then faded away with the general assumption that we will never know what actually happened. Instead of breathing a sigh of relief, Winston was accused of going to a grocery store and stealing some crab legs.
This earned him an adult civic citation. He remains free of a criminal record. However, he has already been suspended from a game this year for yelling obscenities in the student union building at Florida State.
Both descriptions of the previous Heisman winners are clearly absent of the facts that earned them the trophy. Both men had excellent athletic seasons prior to being awarded. However, in a country that glorifies football and turns these players into celebrities, it doesn’t seem wise to exalt them in spite of their misdemeanors.
The Heisman Trust Mission states, “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence.” While the athleticism of each selected player is admirable, the past two candidates have left much to be desired in other realms of excellence. The Heisman Trust would be wise to implement an integrity component into the award.
This season has been a rough one for the integrity of the NFL as well. People have been saying that ESPN is the new TMZ. Domestic abuse, drunken driving, the list goes on for both players and owners. If one of the most esteemed awards in college football would reward not only athleticism, but character, maybe the problem could be nipped in the bud before these players reach the pros.
While a character component could never truly solve the issue of misbehavior among players, it is at least a step in the right direction. Nothing is gained by adding fame and prestige to poor actions and attitudes.
Maleesa Johnson is a junior journalism major from Round Rock. She is the news editor for the Lariat.