Les Horvath was born on October 12, 1921, in South Bend, Indiana. He spent most of his youth in Parma, Ohio. In 1940, he enrolled at The Ohio State University, where he became a football sensation. He played both running back and quarterback for the Buckeyes from 1940 until 1942, when he received his undergraduate degree.
Upon graduating, Horvath enrolled in graduate school at Ohio State, seeking a degree in dentistry. At this time, college football players received only three years of eligibility to play, but because of World War II and the resulting shortage of athletes in school, football players received an additional year of eligibility. In 1944, Buckeye coach Carroll Widdoes asked Horvath to return to the team for a fourth year. Due to the demands of dental school, Horvath was initially reluctant to play but agreed to do so after Widdoes promised that Horvath would be flown to all of the games and would not have to practice as much as the other players. Horvath proceeded to win the Heisman Trophy in 1944. He rushed for 669 yards and accumulated 1,248 all-purpose yards that season. Horvath was the first Buckeye to win the Heisman Trophy.
Upon graduating from dental school in 1945, Horvath enlisted in the United States Navy. He served two years as an ensign and then received an honorable discharge. Horvath then played professional football for three seasons. He initially played for the Los Angeles Rams but concluded his brief career with the Cleveland Browns. Upon retiring from football, Horvath practiced dentistry in California. He died on November 14, 1995.