Desmond Howard Wins Heisman Trophy

The 5-foot 10-inch, 170-pound junior sensation from Cleveland becomes the second Heisman recipient from the Ann Arbor school.

It was in the Notre Dame game that Howard showed a spellbound national television audience just why he is the heart and soul of the 1991 Maize and Blue. With Michigan desperate to end a string of four consecutive defeats at Notre Dame's hands, an early Wolverine surge had run out of steam and the Irish were poised to take the lead. Then, quickly, Michigan moved into Notre Dame territory. On the crucial fourth-down-and-inches play that decided the outcome, Howard's old high school classmate, Wolverine quarterback Elvis Grbac, launched a high, floating spiral that seemed too distant to be caught. But the mercurial Howard raced under it, leaped as far as he could, and cradled the ball in his outstretched hands for the touchdown that gave Michigan one of its most cherished victories. The play is already enshrined in Ann Arbor lore as "the catch." In game after game, Howard has made dazzling receptions, run kickoffs back with reckless abandon and a wondrous facility for using his blockers to full open-field advantage, and carried the ball brilliantly on wide-sweeping reverses. Howard's 1991 season was amazing by any standards catching 61 passes for 950 yards and 19 touchdowns (23 total TDs.) He was the first receiver in Big Ten conference history to lead the league in scoring with 138 points. Add the 12 scores as a sophomore and two as a freshman, and Howard amassed an amazing 37 touchdowns in his UM career. The Washington Redskins drafted him in the first round. While he never caught on as a receiver, he's turned himself into one of the greatest kick returners in NFL history including a Super Bowl MVP with the Packers.

Michigan's Desmond Howard won all six sections in recording the third highest margin of victory in Heisman Trophy history. Howard became the fourth consecutive junior and the second Michigan player to win the Heisman, 51 years after Hall of Famer Tom Harmon won his. Ty Detmer, the Brigham Young quarterback who was the Heisman winner in 1990, managed only a third place finish.

Desmond Kevin Howard (born May 15, 1970 in Cleveland, Ohio) is a former American football wide receiver, punt returner, and kickoff returner in the National Football League.
He played for the Washington Redskins (1992–1994), Jacksonville Jaguars (1995), Green Bay Packers (1996, 1999), Oakland Raiders (1997–1998) and Detroit Lions (1999–2002). Prior to his professional career, he attended the University of Michigan where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1991. Howard also was voted the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXI, as the only special teams player to win the award. After Super Bowl XXXI, he became only the fourth player to win the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP. Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett, and Marcus Allen are the others.

During his college career at the University of Michigan, Howard set or tied five NCAA and 12 Michigan records. He also lead the Big Ten Conference in scoring with 138 points during the 1991 season on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and earning a First Team All-American selection. Howard captured 85% of the first place votes in balloting for the Heisman, the largest margin in the history of the trophy at that time. Howard also earned a Bachelors degree in Communications in 1992.

The word "versatile" is commonly defined as "capable of doing many things." Synonyms of the word include adaptable, all-around, and handy. So seeing that Desmond Howard was a high school All-American tailback from Cleveland, Ohio, a Heisman Trophy winning wide receiver at Michigan, a Super Bowl MVP kick returner with the Green Bay Packers, a video game poster boy, and now one of ESPN's top college football analysts, one could venture to say that he too, could also be used to define the word.

Defining Howard was often left to his play on the field, but he does frequently mention the words "honored, blessed and fortunate," when describing his career. He says he is fortunate he had the opportunity to play football at Michigan under the legendary Bo Schembechler and live the dream of playing in the Rose Bowl. He is blessed for all the awards he was able to win and the records he was able to break. Perhaps most importantly, Howard feels honored that along with "The Catch" and "The Pose", he is still thought of as a respected representative of Michigan, especially for the Big Ten's Black History Month campaign.

"It's a huge honor," he said. "Any time a school or an institution chooses you as a highly respected individual that can represent them, it's the ultimate compliment. When you look at all the awards given out, the ones that mean the most to an athlete, are the ones voted on by their peers. Any athlete I have spoken to, anything done by their peers, it is the most special to them. It's the same way with me about the university."

Howard grew up in the Cleveland community from a family that instilled the "Midwest mentality" in him, which essentially meant, no academics, no athletics. Sports were often the reason Howard stayed away from the streets, having three brothers - two older and one younger - to compete with. He said he always was playing the sport that happened to be in season and credits his development in those sports by playing with his older brothers.

"I always played football with the older kids and that helped in my development as an athlete," he said. "It forces you try to compete on their level."

As an All-American tailback at St. Joseph High School, who also led the state in interceptions on defense, Howard took his standard five visits to college campuses, but felt at the end of the day, no school could compete with what Michigan brought to the table. It was the desire to play in the Rose Bowl, the rarity to play for a legendary college, and the opportunity to play on a national stage.