One of the biggest things analysts and media members keep pointing to with Justin Herbert’s collegiate career is that he was the recipient of the 2019 William V. Campbell Trophy, otherwise known as the “Academic Heisman.” They obviously claim it means he’s very smart, which he is! But does that intelligence consistently translate to success in the pros? I took a look at the other quarterbacks to win the award, all the way back to its’ inception in 1990, to see what winning the trophy may mean for his future in the NFL.
For starters, the other seven quarterbacks to win the William V. Campbell Award are, in order:
1995 - Bobby Hoying, Ohio State
1996 - Danny Wuerffel, Florida
1997 - Peyton Manning, Tennessee
1998 - Chad Pennington, Marshall
2003 - Craig Krenzel, Ohio State
2009 - Tim Tebow, Florida
2016 - Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
Now, let’s take a look at each of their careers in the NFL with a little splash of their collegiate accolades for context:
Hoying was a third-round pick out of Ohio State. He finished his time in Columbus with the third-most passing yards in team history.
- NFL Career Starting Record: 3-9-1
- NFL Career Statistics: 53.5% completion percentage, 2,544 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
- NFL Accolades: Most pass completions in a season without throwing a touchdown (114)
After throwing for 11 touchdowns in his sophomore season (1997), Hoying never threw another touchdown again. Seriously. He’d go on and throw nine more interceptions though in 1998, which raises the question, “How did he not get benched before he got all the way to nine?” I wish I knew. Oh wait, here’s how:
That man went eight whole games and was never permanently benched. Astounding.
Hoying would eventually retire following the 2001 season after suffering a serious elbow injury.
Wuerffel won the 1996 Heisman Trophy and was a four-time SEC Champion for the Florida Gators. In his final two seasons, he was named a First-Team All-American and helped the Gators to the 1996 college football national championship. He was later selected in the fourth-round of the NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints.
- NFL Career Starting Record: 4-6
- NFL Career Statistics: 60.5% completion percentage, 2,123 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, 22 interceptions
- NFL Accolades: N/A
After playing with the Saints for three seasons (1997-1999), Wuerffel spent the 1999 offseason with NFL Europa’s Rhein Fire and led them to the World Bowl Championship where he won MVP honors. Wuerffel spent the next few seasons between the Green Bay, Chicago, Houston, and Washington. After he was released in 2003, he decided to retire when no team came calling for his services.
I don’t need to get into this one too much, right? We know how this story goes. Manning was the first-overall pick of the Colts in 1998 before going on to set a million and a half NFL records.
- NFL Career Record: 186-79
- NFL Career Statistics: Regular season - 65.3 completion percentage (reg. season), 71,940 passing yards, 539 touchdowns, 251 interceptions. Postseason - 63.2 completion percentage, 7,339 passing yards, 40 touchdowns, 25 interceptions.
- NFL Accolades: 2x Super Bowl Champ (XLI, L), Super Bowl XLI MVP, 14x Pro Bowler, 7x First-Team All-Pro, 3x Second-Team All-Pro, 5x NFL MVP, NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team, Most passing yards in a season (5,477), Most passing touchdowns in a season (55), one of 100 members of the NFL’s All-Time Team, #18 retired in Indianapolis and Denver.
So this one is the best-case scenario, yeah? After reading the first few bios, you probably needed this pick-me-up. Manning retired as one of the greatest players of all time and he’s the epitome of what you want your quarterback to be. We can only hope Herbert sniffs this type of success.
Pennington won the Academic Heisman two years after Manning and was selected by the New York Jets with the 18th-overall pick. While at Marshall, Pennington was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy his senior season and was voted as the MAC Conference’s Most Valuable Player.
- NFL Starting Record: 44-37
- NFL Career Statistics: Regular season - 66% completion percentage, 17,823 yards, 102 touchdowns, 64 interceptions. Postseason - 1,418 yards, eight touchdowns, eight interceptions.
- NFL Accolades: NFL Passer Rating Leader (2002), 2x NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2006, 2008)
Pennington enjoyed an above-average career as a quarterback in the NFL and it was unfortunately cut a bit shorter than he probably wanted due to a rash of shoulder injuries. He ultimately had four shoulder surgeries in total and a torn ACL that he suffered in a pick-up basketball game in 2011. That one seemed to be the nail in the coffin for his final comeback attempt.
The former Ohio State signal-caller was a fifth-round pick in the draft by the Chicago Bears after winning the nation championship with the Buckeyes in 2002. He was 24-2 as a starter in Columbus.
- NFL Starting Record: 3-2
- NFL Career Statistics: 46.5% completion percentage, 718 passing yards, three touchdowns, six interceptions.
- NFL Accolades: N/A
Krenzel lasted less than three years in the NFL before calling it a career. He started his time in Chicago by winning his first three starts despite terrible passing stats but then lost his next two contests. An ankle injury at the end of his rookie season, however, swayed the Bears to cut him less than a year into his first professional season. He was quickly picked up by the Bengals and but spent the 2005 season as the third-stringer. He was cut for the final time in May of 2006 following Tommy John surgery.
Que all the people remembering how promising Tebow’s career was when he was coming out.
After winning every award imagineable during his time in The Swamp, including the 2007 Heisman, and a pair of national championships (2008-09), Tebow was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in the 2009 NFL Draft.
- NFL Starting Record: 8-6
- NFL Career Statistics: Regular season - 47.9% completion percentage, 2,422 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 989 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns. Postseason - 40.4% completion percentage, two touchdowns, 63 rushing yards, one rushing touchdowns
- NFL Accolades: N/A
By the time Tebow was out of Denver, he had a single playoff victory to his name, and what a finish that was. He would spend the next few years bouncing between the Jets, Patriots, and Eagles before finally calling it a career in 2015.
Terrell enjoyed some good years with Western Michigan where he was a three-time All-MAC selection and the conference’s MVP in 2016. He went undrafted that same year but signed a UDFA contract with the Baltimore Ravens. That lasted three days and no other team gave him a second chance.
- NFL Starting Record: N/A
- NFL Career Statistics: N/A
- NFL Accolades: N/A
There’s nothing to see here.
So there you have it. All seven other quarterbacks who won the William V. Campbell Trophy and how they fared in the NFL. Overall, it’s not so good. Manning and Pennington are obviously carrying the load here. At arm’s length, it doesn’t look to be a good thing for a QB to win this reward. But when you bring it in closer, and consider only only the three guys players who were first-round draft prospects, things become much brighter.
If I remember correctly, Tebow was not though of by the majority as a first-round pick. Analysts believed his technical shortcomings and lack of traditional fundamentals were made up for by the immense amount of talent around him while he was at Florida. If we further slide Tebow out of the conversation, then you’re only left with Pennington and Manning.
Let’s be honest, if Herbert lands somewhere between the two, the fans will be thrilled. Pennington could have had an even better career but man, that guy truly could not stay healthy.
In conclusion, does winning the Academic Heisman bode well for future NFL success? While I can’t confidently say yes, the prospects of having a relatively successful career look to be in the cards for Herbert, barring a rather unexpected amount of shoulder surgeries.
Also he should probably stay away from playing basketball.