NEW ORLEANS — For the first time since Billy Cannon Sr. took home Louisiana’s inaugural Heisman Memorial Trophy in 1959, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has won college football’s highest individual honor.
Burrow not only took home college football’s most prestigious award, but he also did so in record fashion – setting marks for largest margin of victory, the highest percentage of first-place votes (90.7 percent) and the highest percentage of being named on ballots at all (95.5).
“I’m just so thankful for LSU and Ohio State. My journey, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world,” he tearfully said in his acceptance speech.
Burrow, the adopted Cajun, by way of Ohio State, was overcome with emotion, thanking the state of Louisiana for accepting him, but saving his biggest tears and most emotion for Coach Ed Orgeron, who sat beaming in the front row.
“Coach O – You have no idea what you mean to my family,” he said. “I didn’t play for three years. You took a chance on me, not knowing if I could play or not. I’m forever grateful for you. A guy like Coach O giving me the keys to his football program. He just means so much to me and my family. I sure hope they give him a lifetime contract, he deserves it.”
Burrow won the Heisman handily by breaking nearly every passing record in the Tigers’ books, leading LSU to an undefeated 13-0 season, capturing the Southeast Conference title with coach Ed Orgeron for LSU’s first championship since 2011 and securing the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoffs — with all eyes now on a national championship.
Oh, and he went 31 for 39 and threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama.
It was no secret Burrow was the front-runner for the award. As of earning the trophy at the Heisman Ceremony in the PlayStation Theater in New York City Saturday night, the 23-year-old had thrown for 4,715 yards and 48 touchdowns — breaking the LSU and SEC single-season records for both. His quarterback rating was 93.7
Burrow’s LSU career didn’t start to the sound of trumpets. He was an unlikely junior transfer from Ohio State University, a 6’4″ graduate out of Athens High School in Ohio with an unproven college record.
Now, he’s poised to break the NCAA’s completion percentage with 77.9% passes completed and up to two games left. That’s already set him up to ear him the SEC single-season record, as well.
He can also break LSU’s all-time touchdown record for a single season, just five behind the 69 put up by Tommy Hodson in the 1980s. Burrow has 64 in two years, versus Hodson’s four.
The Heisman is the crown jewel of what’s already an incredibly award-packed season for Burrow:
- Heisman Trophy Winner
- SEC Offensive Player of the Year
- Associated Press Player of the Year (first in LSU history)
- Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award
- Walter Camp Award
- Maxwell Award
- First Team All-SEC
- Davey O’Brien Award
“The best thing about Joe is he’s a team player,” Orgeron said after the SEC championship game. “All he wants to do is win this game. Individual awards are not high on his list.”
At the ceremony, Burrow was visibly tearful, but thanked his teammates and coaches for giving him the chance shine.
“These guys have been unbelievable this year, and I couldn’t have done it without them,” Burrow said. “All of my teammates have supported me, welcomed me with open arms.”
Orgeron also won the SEC’s and AP’s Coach of the Year award. According to LSU, it’s the first time the team has earned the two together since 1959, when the Tigers won their first football national championship and coach Paul Dietzel and halfback Billy Cannon won honors, respectively.
Even his Heisman win was record-breaking. He received the highest percentage of first-place votes in Heisman history with 90.7% and the largest margin of victory with 1,846 points.
Cannon earned LSU’s first Heisman Trophy that year, the oldest and heaviest of the college football honors that was first bestowed to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger in 1936.
This isn’t it for Burrow, Orgeron and the Tigers, though.
He beat out fellow Heisman finalists Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, OSU quarterback Justin Fields and OSU defensive end Chase Young, but he’ll have to face Hurts again in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 28 in Atlanta.
If LSU can win there, they may then have to battle Young and Fields in the College Football Championship game in January (if the Buckeyes defeat Clemson in their semi-final match up).
But for now, the night is yours, Joe.
“It means so much to me, but not just to me, to LSU and to the state of Louisiana. I do it for them,” Burrow said ahead of the ceremony. “My teammates have been great all year and I have a great coaching staff as well.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this report stated Cannon won the Heisman in 1958. This story has been updated to reflect he won the Heisman in 1959.