Desmond Howard caught the ball at Michigan’s seven-yard line and immediately made his move.
Only one man was near him at that time, and ABC announcer Keith Jackson noticed, too.
“One man,” Jackson said. “Goodbye! Hello, Heisman!”
Jackson helped popularize the moment with one of the most iconic calls in sports history. But Howard memorialized the 93-yard punt return touchdown when he struck the Heisman Trophy pose as he reached the end zone.
“I told my friends back in Ohio that if I got in the end zone against Ohio State, I’d do something special for them,” Howard told The Michigan Daily after the game. “But the season’s not over. I won’t say that it’s mine until it’s in my hands.”
When the season was indeed over, it was in his hands. He was the Heisman Trophy winner, Michigan’s second in program history and first in over 50 years. Howard led the Big Ten in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns with 985 and 19, respectively. He broke five NCAA records and 12 single-season Michigan records.
Even to start the season, Howard built himself up as a Heisman candidate by returning a 93-yard kick return for a touchdown against Boston College and catching a game-winning touchdown on a 4th-and-1 against Notre Dame.
And to end it, he made a statement with three catches for 96 yards and a 16-yard kickoff return in his last game at Michigan Stadium, in addition to the iconic punt return.
Heisman or not, Howard’s legacy was already cemented.
What he did in the 31-3 win over then-No. 18 Ohio State was more than special — it immortalized him in Wolverine lore.
Catching the ball, Howard ran past the only Buckeye in the vicinity. He sprinted, catching speed in his straight-line run. Michigan blockers all around him created space for a lane to the end zone, and he took it.
Howard didn’t deviate from the lane until the 30-yard line when a Michigan blocker clogged the pathway while trying to block. So Howard took to the sideline.
“We tried to kick the ball away from him,” said then-Ohio State coach John Cooper to cleveland.com. “We tried to kick it out of bounds, but he made a good play. Once he gets the ball in the open field, it’s over.”
With three players chasing his coattail, Howard created separation halfway down the field, showcasing his speed and punt-returning prowess until all defenders became demoralized and slowed to a stop.
By then, Howard had already reached the end zone.
All season, Howard had celebrated a touchdown by holding both hands up and leaping into the arms of a teammate — usually offensive lineman. But at that time, he wanted to change it up.
A backflip was his ideal celebration, but he “chickened out.” As a backup option, he instead clutched the football close to his chest. He extended his arm into a stiff-arm motion and lifted a leg.