#TBT: Texas A&M Heisman Winner John David Crow, 1935-2015

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After Johnny Manziel was awarded the Heisman Trophy in 2012, the last Texas A&M Heisman winner, John David Crow, offered him some insight: “Nobody knew much about the Heisman then,” Crow said, via Aggies beat writer Brent Zwerneman. “It’s different now — it’s just at a different level.”

John David Crow died Thursday at age 79. As Texas A&M’s first Heisman winner in 1957, he may not have had anywhere near the publicity of its second — with or without the existence of social media. Nevertheless, Crow’s exploits from the 1957 season will never be forgotten, thanks to the commissioning of a statue that stands outside Kyle Field now.

The statue, unveiled at a ceremony prior to an October 2010 Big 12 Conference game against Missouri (coincidentally, now an SEC member with A&M), captures John David Crow with his signature, single-bar facemask in an aggressive rushing pose. He spoke at the dedication with humility, accepting the statue on behalf of “all the great athletes” to don the Aggies’ colors, jokingly adding he had no objection to his No. 44 appearing there.

Crow’s Heisman win is landmark in that, less than two full decades after its inception, it was one of the earliest on record in which a coach publicly campaigned for his player.

No surprise Bear Bryant would feel so strongly about Crow winning the award: He was an all-around playmaker for the Aggies, scoring six touchdowns on the run and another five via the pass. Crow’s proficiency as a passer from the halfback position made him a forerunner to stars like Reggie Bush and C.J. Spiller a half-century later.

While the single-platoon system of the era meant all players were two-way participants, John David Crow flourished as much on that side of the ball as he did in the backfield.

Crow’s only company in the Texas A&M Heisman Club is still trying to find his bearings at the professional level, and much like Manziel’s Heisman win, his efforts in the NFL are much more publicized and scrutinized than Crow’s. Meeting the bar his predecessor set is a tall order: John David Crow was one of the NFL’s stars of the pre-merger era, joining Paul Hornung (another Heisman winner), legendary Bear Gale Sayers and all-time great Brown Leroy Kelly on the NFL All-1960s team.

John David Crow’s Heisman season may not have drawn nearly the attention as Manziel’s back in 1957, but it certainly will today.