Rashaan Salaam cemented his place in Colorado athletics history with a remarkable season for the Buffaloes in 1994.
He will now apparently take his place among college football’s greats.
On Friday, Brett McMurphy of Action Network reported that Salaam will be a part of the College Football Hall of Fame’s 2022 class. The 2022 class has not officially been announced.
Salaam, who took his own life on Dec. 5, 2016, at the age of 42, won CU’s only Heisman Trophy, in 1994, after he rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns during the regular season. To this point, he is the only pre-2000 Heisman winner not already in the College Football Hall of Fame.
A star running back for the Buffaloes from 1992-94, Salaam would be the ninth player in CU history to earn induction to the College Football Hall of Fame, along with legendary coach Bill McCartney.
Salaam’s former teammate, receiver Michael Westbrook, was inducted into the Hall of Fame last month as part of the 2020 class. Bobby Anderson (1967-69), Dick Anderson (1965-67), Herb Orvis (1969-71), Joe Romig (1959-61), Byron White (1935-37), Alfred Williams (1987-90) and John Wooten (1956-58) are also enshrined.
Recruited by McCartney out of Ja Jolla Country Day school in San Diego, Salaam played eight-man football in high school. He quickly adjusted to the 11-man game at CU and ran for 3,057 yards and 33 touchdowns during his three-year career, while adding 38 catches for 412 yards. Salaam ranks fourth in CU history in career rushing yards and third in rushing touchdowns.
“When he was first recruited, he was a dynamo,” McCartney told BuffZone in 2018. “He had a bounce in his step and a fire in his belly. He was just one of those guys that wasn’t just athletic, but he was very competitive.”
In 1994, Salaam was at his best, while playing for one of the top teams in CU history.
That season, Salaam became just the fourth player in college football history to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. In addition to his 2,055 yards during the regular season, he added 83 yards and three touchdowns in a Fiesta Bowl victory against Notre Dame. CU finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3 in the country that season.
The fifth unanimous All-American in CU history, Salaam won the Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Trophy in 1994, as well. He earned first-team All-Big Eight in 1993 and 1994.
“It was a great year,” Salaam told BuffZone in 2014. “I played with some great players, played for a legendary coach, a Hall of Fame coach. It was a special time in Colorado. Football was king in the town, we had some exciting games. It was a very exciting college football experience that I had.”
Following the 1994 season, Salaam elected to skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He was selected in the first round (21st overall) by the Chicago Bears and rushed for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie.
From that point, Salaam’s NFL career went downhill. He became addicted to marijuana, suffered a leg injury in 1998 and admitted he tried to get by with natural ability rather than hard work. After his rookie year, he rushed for just 610 yards the rest of his career.
While he struggled mentally with the burden of being the Heisman winner and believing he didn’t live up to expectations, Salaam was always beloved by those around him. He has been remembered for his great personality and smile and those who played with him remember him as a humble star who never liked the spotlight.
“When you have that kind of success and then you’re genuinely humble; that combination is rare,” McCartney said in 2014. “Guys like that, you just really admire and trust them.”
Salaam was inducted into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012 and had his No. 19 jersey retired by the school in 2017. In 2018, he was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
“He was a difference-maker,” McCartney said. “When you get him, you got something and everybody knew it. There was never any question that he was going to distinguish himself.”
McMurphy reported that Salaam will be a part of a group that also includes Oklahoma defensive back Roy Williams, Oklahoma State running back Terry Miller, Florida State linebacker Marvin Jones and former Missouri and Toledo head coach Gary Pinkel. Former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington announced Thursday that he is a part of the 2022 class, as well.