1940's Heisman Trophy Winners


The 1940s were arguably the last decade of college football ruled by only a few dynasties. Only five teams won titles in the 40s, including three back-to-back winners (Minnesota, Army and Notre Dame), the last time a decade had more than one back-to-back national champion. The Army teams that won in 44 and 45 were particularly bolstered by the war (while many other colleges saw their squads depleted by World War II). The Cadets went undefeated in their two national championship seasons, with two Heisman trophy winners on the roster. Though Minnesota, Army and Michigan could lay claim to having the best team of the decade, that title almost surely belongs to the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame won four championships in the 1940s, more than any other team would win in a single decade since. They had a player finish in the top 10 of Heisman voting nine times, with three winners (the most winners from a single team in a decade until USC players won three in the 2000s). The Irish also went undefeated in five of the seven seasons coached by Frank Leahy in the decade (Leahy came on board in 41, left for two years to join the Navy in 44 and 45, and returned in 46).
With the war on, few innovations were made to the game, with one notable exception: the platoon. Prior to the 1940s, players played both ways, that is, they would play both on offense and on defense. However, in the 40s, with their roster swelled by recruits, Army and head coach Red Blaik began using a platoon system in which certain players only played on offense or defense. While initially the subject of scorn by other teams, the system eventually caught on, with modern-day football using almost exclusively the platoon system. Now, two-way players are an extreme rarity; the most notable two-way player in recent history was Florida State Seminole and Dallas Cowboy star Deion Sanders, who played both receiver and defensive back.
Additionally, the 1940s saw the games first 1,500-yard single-season rusher (Fred Wendt of Texas Mines in 48 with 1,570 yards) and its first 2,000-yard single-season passer (Nevadas Stan Heath, also in 48, with 2,005). While the NFL wouldnt see a 1,500-yard rusher until 1958 (Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns with 1527), the NFL was actually ahead of the college game when it came to passing: the NFLs first 2,000-yard passer was Cecil Isbell of the Packers with 2,021 yards in 1942. In 1947, a year before Heaths 2,005 yards for Nevada, Sammy Baugh threw for 2,938 yards in the NFL.

By the 1940's, college football conferences began signing contracts that tied their championship team to a particular bowl. In 1947, the Big Ten Conference and the Pacific Ten Conference (then known as the Pacific Coast Conference) agreed to commit their champions to play in the Rose Bowl every year, an agreement that continued under the BCS. This system raised the possibility that the two top-ranked teams in the final poll would not play each other in a bowl game.  Under the circumstances, it was also possible to have a split national championship.

1940s Winner
1940  Tom Harmon
1941  Bruce Smith
1942  Frank Sinkwich
1943  Angelo Bertelli
1944  Les Horvath
1945  Doc Blanchard
1946  Glenn Davis
1947  Johnny Lujack
1948  Doak Walker
1949  Leon Hart



1930s
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Heisman Trophy Winners