Last season Jordan Lynch became only the 13th player from an Illinois University to receive a vote in the Heisman Trophy. This season he has become only the third player to receive votes in two different seasons. Darnell Autry and Dick Butkus were the first two.
Lynch is a longshot to capture the 79th Heisman Trophy, but he's in elite company. Getting to New York as a finalist is a major accomplishment and something that will remain with him for the rest of his life.
Here is a look at all of the players that have received Heisman Votes from Illinois schools.
Jordan Lynch 2012
Lynch finished seventh in the 2012 Heisman Trophy voting. He led Northern Illinois to its first major bowl after a 12-1 season. Lynch finished the season with 1,815 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns and 3,138 yards passing with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Damien Anderson 2000
Anderson became the second Northwestern running back to become a Heisman Finalist at the conclusion of the 2000 season. Anderson led NU to an 8-3 regular season and a share of the Big Ten title. He rushed for 1,914 yards and 19 touchdowns and had an additional 132 yards on 19 receptions.
Darnell Autry 1995 and 1996
Autry's 1995 season maybe one of the most important in Northwestern history. Their run to the Rosebowl was one of the most improbable stories in sports history. Autry was the catalyst on offense. He finished the season with 1,785 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns and added 27 receptions for 168 yards and another touchdown. The Wildcats went 10-1 in the regular season, including an 8-0 Big Ten record.
They concluded the season by helping Gary Barnett live up to his introductory press conference by taking the purple to Pasadena.
Out to prove that the 1995 season was no fluke, Northwestern went 10-2 in 1996. After carrying the offense the previous year, Autry shared the load with the passing game in 1996. Autry finished the season with 1,452 yards and 17 touchdowns.
After finishing fourth in the 1995 voting, Autry dropped to seventh in the 1996 Heisman Voting. He had a more efficient 1996. He had more than 100 less carries than 1995 and averaged over a half yard more per carry.
Leshon Johnson 1993
It might surprise many people to learn that Jordan Lynch is not the first Heisman finalist from Northern Illinois. After a stellar first season in DeKalb, Johnson finished sixth in the Heisman voting after the 1993 season. Johnson finished the 1993 season with 1,976 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was the highlight of a 4-7 season for the Huskies. He was the first Heisman finalist from the state of Illinois in 11 years.
Tony Eason 1982
Eason led a resurgence at Illinois behind Mike White's offensive brilliance. Eason threw for 3,248 yards and 17 touchdowns in 1982. His 1982 season was historic in Illinois history as he set numerous passing records. Eason concluded his career in the Liberty Bowl against Alabama. In what turned out to be Bear Bryant's final game, Eason threw for 433 yards in a 21-15 Illinois loss. It was the Illini's first Bowl game since 1964.
Jim Grabowski 1965
After winning the MVP of the 1964 Rosebowl as a sophomore, Grabowski finished third in the Heisman two seasons later. He rushed for 1,258 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior. Grabowski would be awarded the Silver Football following the season as the Big Ten MVP.
Dick Butkus 1963-64
Butkus became the first player from the Land of Lincoln to receive Heisman Votes in two different seasons when he finished sixth and third in 1963 and '64. The 1963 season resulted in a Big Ten championship. In Butkus' senior season, the Illini finished 6-3. He was named the sixth biggest icon in Big Ten history in 2011.
Bill Burrell 1959
Burrell led the Illinois defense at linebacker and played guard on the offensive line. He was a consensus all-american and won the Silver Football in 1959. He finished fourth in the Heisman voting. The Illini defense allowed only 93 points in ten games in the 1959 season.
J.C. Caroline 1953
Caroline lead in the nation in rushing with 1,256 yards as a sophomore in 1953. He finished seventh in the Heisman voting. Illinois tied Michigan State for the Big Ten title. The Spartans went to the Rose Bowl because of a better overall record. Caroline left after his junior season in 1954 after being declared academically ineligible.
John Karras 1951
Behind Karras' four 100 yard games, the Illini finished the season 9-0-1 and won the Big Ten. He led the Illini with 716 yards rushing. They trounced Stanford 40-87 in the Rose Bowl with Karras getting a rushing touchdown. He finished sixth in the 1951 Heisman voting. His 13 rushing touchdowns in 1951 ranks fourth all time in a season for the Illini.
Buddy Young 1944
Young was the first player from the University of Illinois to receive Heisman Votes. Young finished fifth in the 1944 Heisman voting as the Illini finished a middling 5-4-1 on the season. His 93 run at Great Lakes and 92 yard run at Pittsburgh still rank as the two longest runs in school history.
It could easily be argued that Graham is the greatest player to ever come out of an Illinois college and/or high school. Graham won the 1943 Big Ten Silver football and finished third in the Heisman Voting. He was a three sport star at Northwestern who was an All-American in both basketball and football. He was also a .300 hitter in baseball.
The Wildcats finished the 1943 season 6-2, 5-1. They were just one game behind undefeated Michigan and Purdue in the conference. In 1943, Graham led the Wildcats in both rushing and passing.
Graham was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1956 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
Berwanger won the inaugural Heisman Trophy in 1935 with 84 out of 156 votes. His closest competition was Army's Monk Meyer with 29 votes.
He also dominated the Big Ten's silver football. He outdistanced Ohio State's legendary Jesse Owens by a 41-20 margin.
On a team that would finish seventh in the Western Conference (forebearer to the Big 10), Berwanger was called the one man football team.
He would become the first ever drafted player in the 1936 NFL Draft. After failing to reach contracts with both the Bears and Eagles, Berwanger decided to go into business instead. He later called it one of his life's biggest regrets.
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