LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels won the 2023 Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, earning college football's most vaunted individual award in his brilliant season for the Tigers.
Daniels beat out fellow finalists Oregon QB Bo Nix, Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., earning 2,029 points. Penix finished second (1,701), followed by Nix (885) and Harrison (352).
"This is a dream come true," Daniels said during his acceptance speech. "I want to first give thanks to God for all the glory. He's my rock. He's my savior. He blessed me with the talents and ability to get here. All the special people here to develop these skills. To Bo, Mike and Marvin, you guys are amazing. I enjoy watching y'all, but the competition is never over. I look forward to seeing you guys on Sundays."
After transferring from Arizona State in 2022, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Daniels led the Tigers to a 10-4 mark, throwing for 2,913 yards and accounting for 29 total touchdowns.
But his 2023 season was even better.
LSU finished the regular season 9-3 under head coach Brian Kelly, with Daniels developing into college football's most dangerous and prolific dual-threat quarterback -- and he's suddenly a red-hot NFL prospect, too.
Daniels threw for 3,812 yards (third in FBS behind only Penix and Nix) and 40 TDs (tied for first with Nix) to go with only four interceptions. He threw for one or more TD passes in every game and three or more in nine contests. Daniels also was a whirling dervish as a runner, rushing for 1,134 yards and 10 TDs. His 8.4-yard rush average ranked No. 1 in FBS this season, and he ran for 613 yards and five TDs in his final four regular-season games.
His biggest outing came against Florida, throwing for 372 yards and three TDs on only 26 pass attempts and rushing for 234 yards and two scores on only 12 carries. The next week, Daniels threw for six TD passes against Georgia State. His Heisman campaign unofficially began with huge back-to-back games against Ole Miss and Missouri, against whom Daniels led a furious second-half comeback. He threw for a career-high 414 yards versus the Rebels and accounted for nine TDs in those two games.
"What did I learn from all this?" Daniels asked later in his speech. "I learned how to block out the noise. That you can overcome any obstacle. And just be humble, be legendary and -- most importantly -- be joyful about what you do. When you get knocked down, get back up, keep smiling and never give up on your dreams."
Daniels is the third LSU player to win the Heisman, following Joe Burrow (2019) and Billy Cannon (1959).
Like Daniels, the other two QB finalists started at one school but thrived in their final destination after transferring. Penix went from Indiana to Washington, while Nix found success at Oregon after leaving Auburn.
Nix and Penix were the first pair of Pac-12 Heisman finalists in the same year since 2010, when Stanford's Andrew Luck was the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton and Oregon running back LaMichael James finished third in the voting. The Pac-12 is in its final season with its current membership before 10 schools depart, including Oregon and Washington heading to the Big Ten next season.
Penix, who finished eighth in the 2022 Heisman voting, threw for an FBS-best 4,218 yards in 2023 (just edging out Nix), along with 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions, also adding three rushing scores. He opened the season with three straight 400-yard passing games and threw three-plus TD passes in six games. Penix led the Huskies to a 13-0 season, a conference championship title over Oregon and a spot in the College Football Playoffs. Penix's Huskies are the No. 2 seed, set to face Texas on Jan. 1.
Nix threw for 4,145 yards, 40 touchdowns (tied with Daniels for the national lead) and only three interceptions, leading Oregon to an 11-2 mark and an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Prior to bowl season, Nix leads the FBS in completion percentage (77.2), which is just behind the all-time NCAA mark of 77.4% for a single season. He threw for two or more TD passes in every game this season and reset the Ducks' season completions mark (336), previously set by Marcus Mariota in 2014.
Harrison, the son of the Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver of the same name, had a brilliant season for the Buckeyes, with 67 receptions for 1,211 yards and 14 touchdowns, and also rushing for one TD. He averaged 18.1 yards per catch, which was tops among players with at least 60 catches, and became the first Buckeye with back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Harrison was the only underclassman finalist this year. In 2022, there were no underclassmen. His HOF father was never a Heisman finalist, in spite of a brilliant career at Syracuse in the mid-1990s, but he ended up a first-round selection (19th overall) in the 1996 NFL Draft, one of the strongest classes in NFL draft history. The younger Harrison has not announced whether he'll declare for the 2024 NFL Draft or return to OSU.
The Heisman has been awarded annually since 1935, given to the country's most outstanding college football player. There were 928 eligible voters for this year's award, which includes 57 living former Heisman Trophy winners and 870 media members, along with one collective vote for fans based on their consensus picks.
Each voter can nominate and rank three players for the award. Three points are assigned to each voter's first choice, two points for their second choice and one point to their third choice.