Cal Football: The Heisman Trophy -- 11 Bears Finished in Top 10 in the Voting

Vic Bottari is the only Cal player to finish in the top 10 of Heisman voting twicePhoto by Cal Athletics

No Cal player ever won the coveted award but quite a few came pretty close

With Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Herbert of Oregon coming to Cal Saturday night, it’s a good time to note Cal’s Heisman Trophy contenders over the years.

Eleven Cal players have finished in the top 10 in the Heisman voting, including one player doing it twice. Here is a list of those 12 occasions, with the player who came the closest to winning presented first.

The place the player finished in the voting is listed at the left. Later in the article we will discuss each candidate.

2nd – Chuck Muncie, 1975

4th – Jackie Jensen, 1948

5th – Paul Larson, 1954

5th – Joe Kapp, 1958

5th – Vic Bottari, 1938

7th – Craig Morton, 1964

8th – J.J. Arrington, 2004

8th – Vic Bottari, 1937

9th – Sam Chapman, 1937

9th – Aaron Rodgers, 2004

9th – Joe Roth, 1976

10th – Steve Bartkowski, 1974

Details of the 11 Cal players who finished in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy voting, presented in chronological order, with the Heisman winner that season also listed. (All photos courtesy of Cal Athletics)

1937 – Running back Vic Bottari, eighth in voting. Winner: Clint Frank, Yale

Photo by Cal AthleticsPhoto by Cal Athletics

A little while after the Heisman Trophy was awarded for the third time, Bottari rushed for 134 yards, scored both touchdowns, intercepted a pass and played all 60 minutes in the Bears’ 13-0 Rose Bowl win over Alabama.

1937 – Running back Sam Chapman, ninth in voting. Winner: Clint Frank, Yale

Photo by Cal Athletics

​Chapman was Bottari’s backfield teammate during the Bears’ undefeated season of 1937. Chapman’s best sport may have been baseball. He played 11 seasons of major-league baseball and finished 12th in the MVP voting in 1941 when he hit .322 with 25 homers and 106 RBIs. His best baseball years were interrupted by World War II, as he was in military service from 1942-44.

1938 – Running back Vic Bottari, fifth in the voting. Winner: Davey O’Brien, TCU

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​Two Ivy Leaguers finished third and fourth that year, and some guy named Marshall Goldberg was second. Vallejo Vic finished with 1,536 yards on 388 carries during his three-year career in Berkeley. He also kicked 13 extra points and was a talented safety on defense. Just 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Bottari was known for his quiet demeanor and the ferociousness with which he hit a hole. He turned down $4,000 to play for the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers, and was a Cal assistant coach briefly. He served on the Berkeley school board and lived most of life in Orinda. He died in 2003.

1948 – Running back Jackie Jensen, fourth in the voting. Winner: Doak Walker, SMU

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Another two-sport star, Jensen was the first Cal player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, collecting 1,080 yards while averaging 7.3 yards per carry in 1948. In baseball he led Cal to the 1947 World Series title, then won the American League MVP award while with the Boston Red Sox in 1958, when he hit .286 with 35 homers and a league-leading 122 RBIs. He led the league in RBIs again in 1959, but retired in January 1960 at the age of 32 because of a fear of flying. He came back in 1961 for one season before retiring again.

1954 – Quarterback Paul Larson, fifth in voting. Winner: Alan Ameche, Wisconsin

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Larson is the only Cal quarterback in history to lead the nation in total offense, turning that trick in 1953, and he led the nation in passing yardage in 1954. His completion percentage of 64.1 his senior year was unheard of in that era. He was also an excellent defensive player, collecting 12 career interceptions, while also serving as the team’s kicker, punter, kick returner and punt returner. He played briefly in the NFL – five games for the Cardinals in 1957 and one game for the Oakland Raiders in 1960.

1958 – Quarterback Joe Kapp, fifth in voting. Winner: Pete Dawkins, Army

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Statistics don’t tell the story for Kapp, who threw 29 interceptions and just eight touchdown passes in his Cal career. He completed 56.1 percent of his passes for three TDs and six interceptions in 1958 when he led an overachieving Cal team to the Rose Bowl, still the last time the Bears have played in the Rose Bowl. He led the British Columbia Lions to the Canadian Football League title in 1964, and pushed the Minnesota Vikings to a Super Bowl berth in the 1969 season. He was voted NFL MVP in 1969, but refused the award saying there is no one most valuable Viking. In 1970, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and dubbed “The Toughest Chicano.” He was Cal’s head coach from 1982 to 1986, and was on the sidelines for “The Play” in 1982.

1964 – Quarterback Craig Morton, seventh in voting. Winner: John Huarte, Notre Dame

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Morton finished his career with 4,501 passing yards, a school and Pac-8 record at the time. The fact that he finished seventh in the Heisman balloting despite playing on a Cal team that went 3-7 says something about the national respect he earned. He was the fifth player selected in the 1965 NFL Draft and took both the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl in the 1970 and 1977 seasons, respectively. Morton finished tied for second in the 1977 MVP voting.

1974 – Quarterback Steve Bartkowski, 10thin voting. Winner: Archie Griffin, Ohio State

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Bartkowski was the only Cal player in history to be taken with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft (1975) until Jared Goff matched him in 2015. Bartkowski led the nation in passing yardage in 1974 as a senior. To become the starter at Cal, Bartkowski had to beat out Vince Ferragamo, who subsequently transferred to Nebraska. As a pro, Bartkowski led the Atlanta Falcons to a playoff berth in 1980, and he finished tied for second in the MVP voting that year.

1975 – Running back Chuck Muncie, second in voting. Winner: Archie Griffin, Ohio State.

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Harry Vance Muncie (Chuck was a name his brothers gave him) finished his college career as Cal’s all-time leading rusher with 3,052 yards (since broken). His 1,460 rushing yards as a senior broke the existing Cal record by nearly 400 yards. Before coming to Cal, he attended Arizona Western Junior College on a basketball scholarship and was convinced there to play football. He received a football scholarship at Cal and later was the third overall pick in the 1976 NFL Draft. Drug problems shortened his pro career, and he spent time in jail before turning his life around. He died in 2013.

1976 – Quarterback Joe Roth, ninth in voting. Winner: Tony Dorsett, Pittsburgh

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Roth actually had a much better season in 1975, when he threw 14 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He played his senior year knowing since midseason that he was dying of melanoma, something the public was not aware of. Roth had just seven touchdown passes and 18 interceptions in 1976 and his play deteriorated toward the end of the season. According to a documentary filmmaker, during festivities for the January 1977 Japan Bowl, Roth agreed to a 30-minute autograph session; but when he realized hundreds of children were still waiting when his time was up, he continued to sign until every child had an autograph. He then left the building and vomited. Roth died a month later. His No. 12 is the only football jersey number ever retired by Cal.

2004 – Running back J.J. Arrington, eighth in voting. Winner: Matt Leinart, USC

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The 2004 season was Arrington’s only season as Cal’s regular starting tailback, but he rushed for 2,018 yards that year, still a single-season school record. In his final two college games, he rushed for 261 yards against Southern Miss and 173 yards in the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech. He was a second-round pick of the Cardinals and played four NFL seasons, starting eight games. Arrington signed with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL in 2011 but was released.

2004 – Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, ninth in voting. Winner: Matt Leinart, USC

Photo by Cal Athletics

Presumably you know enough about this guy, but it is worth remembering the game he played at USC as a senior. He tied an NCAA record by completing his first 23 passes in that game, a run that ended when he intentionally threw a ball away to avoid a sack. Cal lost the game 23-17 when it failed to score after having a first down at the USC 9-yard line in the closing minutes. Now Rodgers has two NFL MVP awards and the best career passer rating in NFL history. Leinart? Uh . . .

Also See:

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Read about Jason Kidd’s 12 greatest games while playing for Cal

See our ranking of the top 12 current NFL players who played college ball at Cal

Check out Cal’s past results when playing games following a bye week

Click here for a story of Cal's biggest blowout wins, including a 127-0 triumph

Click here for a story on why Cal will beat Oregon on Saturday

Click here for a story on why Oregon will beat Cal Saturday