The Heisman Trophy: WVU had seven candidates for coveted award
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Among the ever-increasing number of individual awards given to college football players, the Heisman Trophy still reigns as the most recognizable and most coveted.
At West Virginia University, no player has ever been awarded the Heisman. Quarterback Major Harris has been the closest to being selected as the Heisman recipient and he finished third in the voting in 1987.
Harris also finished fifth following the 1988 season.
Coming to WVU from the city of Pittsburgh, Harris finished his career with 7,334 total yards in three seasons. He entered the NFL draft after only three years with the Mountaineers. He was as dangerous with his feet as he was with his arm, and one play against rival Penn State will never be forgotten by most West Virginia followers.
Harris actually forgot what play had been called, and ran one way while the rest of the team went off in the other direction. Harris broke seven tackles (by count) and scored, as West Virginia upset the Nittany Lions. Dubbed “The Play,” Harris’ exhilarating run might be the most famous play in WVU football lore. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Will Grier, at WVU for two seasons, finished fourth in the Heisman balloting here in 2018. After transferring from Florida, Grier was a two-year starter at quarterback. He missed the tail-end of the 2017 season with an injury, and will not play in the Camping World Bowl this year.
Another Mountaineer to finish fourth in Heisman annals was running back Steve Slaton. While in Morgantown, Slaton piled up records at an alarming rate. He scored six touchdowns against Louisville in 2005, and rushed for 3,923 yards in his 35 games.
Slaton had 50 touchdowns and was a consensus All-America selection before being drafted in the third round by the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Left-handed quarterback Pat White was sixth in the 2007 Heisman balloting and then was seventh in the 2008 Heisman race.
White’s name is splashed all over West Virginia’s record books. His career record in four seasons in Morgantown was 42-9 and he will ever be known for starting in four-straight bowl victories — helping to tame Georgia, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma and North Carolina.
When his days had been spent as a Mountaineer, White had rushed for 4,480 yards and completed 64.6 percent of his career passes. He was selected in the second round of an NFL draft by Miami.
Finishing seventh in the 1983 Heisman voting was Penn State transfer quarterback Jeff Hostetler. Hostetler’s record in his two seasons was 18-6. He presided over a comeback Hall of Fame Bowl victory against Kentucky in 1983.
In the NFL, Hostetler was the quarterback who helped topple Buffalo by a point in a Super Bowl.
In 2012, wide receiver Tavon Austin was eighth in the Heisman figuring. As a junior, the diminutive Austin had 100 catches for 1,180 yards. Then as a senior he caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards.
In West Virginia’s much-heralded 70-33 win over Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl, Austin had four touchdown catches.
Austin was a first-round draft selection of the then St. Louis Rams.
“Famous Amos” Zereoue placed 10th in the 1997 Heisman voting. While in Morgantown, Zereoue rushed for over 100 yards in 21 games and had 4,086 yards rushing in his 33 career games.
Following his Mountaineer career, Zereoue played in the NFL for Pittsburgh, Oakland and New England.
Harris came the closest. Six others did enough to garner meaningful Heisman votes. All of them were never-to-be-forgotten players in WVU football history and as the dominant figure and budding legend in handed-down stories concerning WVU football.