Winning Heisman Trophy is lucrative even without NFL success

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend Marcus Mariota, Melvin Gordon or Amari Cooper will be announced as the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner on ESPN. All three Heisman candidates are expected to go in the top half of the NFL Draft, with Mariota and Cooper projected to be top-10 picks. That doesn’t mean they will be a success in the NFL. Plenty of former Heisman winners, from Gino Torretta to Ron Dayne to Matt Leinart weren’t able to replicate their dominance at the NFL level. The Heisman curse may or may not be real, but Heisman winners who don’t make it in the NFL can still monetize their Heisman fame.

The No. 1 example is the Nissan Heisman House. The premise that all Heisman trophy winners live in the house and hang out makes for entertaining advertisements. Obviously, any player who appears in the commercials is paid for his services.

Heisman winners could have the inside track on other commercials as well. Johnny Manziel had endorsement deals before taking a snap in the NFL. Leinart has appeared in DISH Network commercials. Once a player wins the Heisman, he is almost automatically a household name.

Then there are appearance fees and autographs. Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin’s appearance fee is listed at $5,000-10,000. He also makes money for autographs, etc. If a Heisman Trophy winner has a big enough name, he could theoretically make that his main source of income.

Finally, former Heisman winners could parlay the award into a TV gig. Winning the Heisman does add to a broadcaster’s resume. Desmond Howard and Tim Tebow are examples of Heisman winners who are now NCAA football pundits for ESPN.

So maybe Friday’s Heisman winner will be a future NFL Hall of Famer, but if he isn’t, he can always monetize the Heisman victory in other ways.

Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.

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