The name of the immortalized stiff-arm structure has since changed to the Heisman trophy and all FBS college football players are eligible regardless of geography -- but an exclusive element still exists.
At the core, the Heisman trophy stands as the ultimate symbol of excellence and outstanding performance. In reality, however, its voters have struggled to assign the award to anyone not lined up in the offensive backfield. And as humans hungry for a good story, these same members have become enraptured by the novelty of new faces and uplifting back-stories. Playing for a national championship contender never hurts either.
We all have our favorites to win and feel we know the correct criteria by which to evaluate but ultimately don't have much of a say. Despite how things unfold the season must go on and the awards will still be engraved. We have to accept the flaws of the Heisman system like anything in life and move on.
But just so we're all prepared, here are the top seven players with a realistic shot at the Heisman in 2012. 7. E.J. Manuel, QB Florida State
The Seminoles are becoming a big favorite of many to earn a birth into the national championship game. The ACC hasn't built a reputation for exceptional depth and a lack of serious competition could elevate the 'Noles to an undefeated regular season. If you're in a BCS conference and you pull off an undefeated regular season, book your spot for an appearance at the Heisman trophy presentation. 6. Geno Smith, QB West Virginia
The Sooners are the opening favorites in the Big-12, but this Mountaineers squad is built to impact the conference from day one. In many ways, the best ACC teams are alike that of the Big-12 in regard to potent offense and inconsistent defense. Head coach Dana Holgerson brings experience from his previous stint at Oklahoma State and an upset win or two by the Mountaineers is a serious possibility. Smith already has national notoriety among college football pundits so he won't have to do much besides win to get his name in the Heisman conversation.
5. Marcus Lattimore, HB South Carolina
Other great running backs are hoping for a shot at the Heisman this year but few can boast a national conscience that seems to be hoping for a redemptive season by Lattimore. The Gamecocks halfback had a great start in 2011 before an injury derailed him. Had he stayed healthy it's hard to say how the season would have finished for the other USC. South Carolina is a dark-horse (even as a top-ten preseason squad) in the SEC and an undefeated or one-loss year would guarantee a spot on the final Heisman list for the team's best offensive talent. 4. Denard Robinson, QB Michigan
The Wolverines have made great strides each of the last two years, and the improvement of Robinson has correlated in kind. The Big-10 has lost some of its defensive luster and is in a year of uncertainty as many top teams regroup with new quarterbacks and halfbacks. Michigan should finally have a top-tier defense -- enough to give them a shot at a Big-10 title -- which means a lot of wins and the spotlight on the conference's most explosive playmaker.
3. Landry Jones, QB Oklahoma
Throwing for over 4,300 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2011 should have been enough to get national attention. Unfortunately for Landry Jones, the amazing RG3/Baylor story and unbelievable run by Oklahoma State overshadowed a great season by the returning Sooners' quarterback. As simple as it sounds, wins are all that Jones needs to put his name in the Heisman mix. There's a very good chance that OU could be undefeated with three games to go. If Landry can lead his team through the brutal finale to the regular season he could be hoisting the bronze sculpture in December. 2. Aaron Murray, QB Georgia
In reality, this slot could be renamed "Quarterback of the SEC Champions." Murray is highly regarded as the best signal-caller in the conference and the Bulldogs have the talent and experience to finally dethrone the likes of Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Florida. If Georgia makes it to the SEC title game it will be due largely to the performance of Murray. In such a devastating league combined with the novelty of a successful year by Georgia -- there's no reason to think the award won't be his if all conditions are met.
1. Matt Barkley, QB USC
This trophy is Matt Barkley's to lose. He has the story -- a lifelong USC fan who even went so far as to proclaim as a child he would one day be the starting quarterback of the Trojans. He has the hearts of the nation -- returning, unselfishly, for his senior year in an attempt to fulfill his dream and help his college when he could have chased the money and turned pro. And he's on the nation's top rated team to start the season. As if that's not enough, he plays for the USC Trojans. If you're a halfback or quarterback for USC and can manage an undefeated or one-loss season -- you're an automatic Heisman finalist.
Sound Off: Set aside who you want to win for a minute -- who do you think will actually win the Heisman in 2012?
Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. Follow him on Twitter @long_snapper