Christian McCaffrey’s Heisman Robbery Remains Just as Baffling Today

Fans across all sports like to complain about their favorite players being robbed of awards and accolades, but no athlete in recent memory has a strong case of being robbed than current San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey with the 2015 Heisman Trophy.

Before he was an NFL superstar, McCaffrey was a high school All-American and a 4-star recruit that opted to enroll at Stanford over other top programs like Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. The son of an NFL wide receiver and Super Bowl champion, McCaffrey didn’t take long before he took the college football world by storm, and the 2015 season put him on the map as one of the best players in the country.

During that magical run, McCaffrey racked up 2,019 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, adding another 645 yards and five scores on 45 receptions. But McCaffrey wasn’t done there, because he also added over 1,000 kickoff return yards and return touchdowns on both KOR and punt return. His 3,864 all-purpose yards shattered the FBS record previously held by Barry Sanders, who had previously held the record with 3,250 all-purpose yards.

Unfortunately, the Heisman Trophy voters went in a different direction at the end of the season, robbing McCaffrey of the sport’s most prestigious award.

Who Won the 2015 Heisman Trophy?

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite all of his individual success, McCaffrey faced some tough competition with the Heisman Trophy finalists in 2015.

McCaffrey was joined alongside Alabama running back Derrick Henry and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson as the 2015 Heisman finalists. Henry was in the middle of a dominant season for the Crimson Tide, eventually rushing for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns on the national championship-winning team. Watson would be on the other end of that national championship game, leading Clemson to a 14-1 record with 4,109 passing yards, 1,105 rushing yards, 47 total touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.

All three players from the 2015 Heisman Trophy ceremony went on to have successful NFL careers (in Watson’s case, at least early on in Houston), but the three also had some of the most successful college careers in the modern era.

However, despite McCaffrey’s incredible dominance, it was Henry who was selected to be the Heisman Trophy winner in 2015, with the 870 voters helping the Alabama running back edge the Stanford star out for the award.

While it was a tremendous honor for Henry, the real reason that McCaffrey was snubbed makes the Heisman robbery that much more upsetting.

The Real Reason Christian McCaffrey Lost the Heisman Trophy

Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Arguments can be made for why Henry was chosen over McCaffrey for the Heisman Trophy, but the real reason that the Stanford star running back lost out on the award is deeply concerning.

In an interview with The Athletic back in 2019, McCaffrey revealed that a Heisman voter told him that they didn’t pick him to win the award because they didn’t stay up late enough to watch his games on the west coast.

Because of his team’s late start times, Heisman voters that weren’t on the west coast didn’t pay enough attention to McCaffrey’s iconic season, but what’s even worse is that at least one voter told the Stanford star to his face that it was the reason they didn’t vote for him. Despite that, McCaffrey has kept a positive outlook on the situation.

“I think I realized, too, that stuff is really not important in the grand scheme of things,” McCaffrey told The Athletic. “There are people who go through real stuff. Losing the Heisman is not a real issue for me. It’s something that I wish I won, yeah, but … I’m not defined by winning or losing anything. I am who I am, and I play the game because I love it.”

Fortunately for McCaffrey, his NFL career has helped lessen some of the sting of that fateful night in 2015. He has become a three-time All-Pro running back with both the Panthers and 49ers, and will have a chance to add a Super Bowl ring to his long list of accolades if San Francisco can hold off the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII.

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