Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney is best known as an attorney, a New Haven Democrat, the highest-ranking state senator, and one of the longest-serving legislators at the state Capitol.
But he is also an expert on the Heisman Trophy, having memorized all the winners of college football’s highest award since 1935.
Some ambitious elementary school students throughout the country often spend time memorizing all kinds of facts, including the state capitals and American presidents. But at the age of 10, Looney vowed to memorize the Heisman winners.
On Friday, he predicted that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield would win this year’s award. Mayfield, who has already been named the Associated Press player of the year, is scheduled to be in New York for Saturday night’s announcement.
“I’m predicting Mayfield,’’ Looney said of the leader of the longtime powerhouse in college football.
With complete recall, no notes, and no prompting, Looney easily cited the statistics of the top teams and the winners.
“Notre Dame, USC, and Ohio State have seven winners,’’ Looney said. “Currently, Oklahoma has five — six, assuming Mayfield gets it.’’
Looney figured that Penn State running back Saquon Barkley would be a top contender this year, but his chances faded as the season grew longer.
One of the enduring themes of the Heisman winners is that many of them do not become outstanding professional players.
“There have been a lot of Heisman-winning quarterbacks who never did anything in the NFL,’’ Looney said in an interview. “Ty Detmer of BYU. John Huarte of Notre Dame, who wound up getting drafted by the Jets in the same year as Joe Namath was. They drafted two quarterbacks that year — Huarte and Namath — and obviously Huarte was never heard from again. Namath never won the Heisman.’’
He added, “The only Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who had a tremendous NFL career and is an NFL Hall of Famer as a quarterback is Roger Staubach from 1963. He won from Navy. Paul Hornung was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback but is a Hall of Fame running back. From Notre Dame. Then he went to play for the Packers. He was also the only guy from a losing team to win the Heisman. Notre Dame was under .500 in 1956, the year he won it.’’
Looney then immediately rattled off the names of some of the most famous quarterbacks who never won the Heisman: “Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Namath, Ken Stabler.’’