The Heisman Trophy is the most famous individual trophy in all of sports.


First awarded on this date in 1935, it was originally called the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy and was given to the “most valuable player in the east” by the Downtown Athletic Club, a private social and athletic club located in Lower Manhattan.  Following the death of legendary coach and DAC athletic director John W. Heisman in October 1936, the award was named in his honor and broadened to include players west of the Mississippi.  Heisman had been active in college athletics as a football player, a head football, basketball and baseball coach, and an athletic director.  A leader and innovator, Mr. Heisman pioneered the forward pass, center snap, scoreboard and the use of pulling guards to lead the end run.


The Heisman Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the “most outstanding player in college football whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.  Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.”  I wonder if the Heisman Trust, the organization that oversees the award, regrets Johnny Manziel being named the winner in 2012?


The Downtown Athletic Club hosted the Heisman award presentation and dinner each December from 1935 to 2000.  The club was less than a half mile south of the World Trade Center and closed following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  The club never reopened, declaring bankruptcy in 2002.  The ceremony was held at the New York Marriott Marquis between 2002 and 2004 before settling in its current venue—the Best Buy Theatre in Times Square—in 2005.  The ceremony was televised for the first time in 1977, when Earl Campbell [Daily Dose, 5/2/16] won, and was first broadcast live in 1981, when Marcus Allen took home the trophy.


Designed by sculptor Frank Eliseu, the Heisman Trophy is modeled after Ed Smith, who played running back for New York University—a school that no longer has a football team–in 1934.  Mr. Smith did not realize until 1982 that the sculpture for which he posed was the Heisman, and he was given his own replica in 1985.  The award is 13.5 inches tall, weighs 45 pounds, and is cast in bronze.  One copy is presented to the winner while another is given to his school.

There are 929 ballots in voting for the Heisman Trophy.  Sectional representatives choose 145 voters—usually sports journalists—in six regions across the country, for 870 ballots.  Each of the living 58 Heisman winners can vote and there is one popular vote.  A 3-2-1 points system is used, with three points for first place, two for second, and one for third.  Points are tabulated and the player with the highest total wins the trophy.


Jay Berwanger, a “triple threat cyclone” and “one man football team” as a running back for the University of Chicago, won the inaugural DAC Trophy following the 1935 season.  Berwanger went on to become the first player selected in the 1936 NFL Draft—the first in league history—but did not sign, wishing to preserve his amateur status so that he could compete in the decathlon at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  After renaming the award the following year, Larry Kelley of Yale became the first Heisman Trophy recipient, in 1936.


The Heisman Trophy has been awarded 81 times.  Running backs have won the most [44], followed by quarterbacks [32].  Seniors have won 60 times and Tim Tebow was the first underclassman to win, in 2007.  Archie Griffin is the only player to win twice [1974 & 1975] while four schools [Yale, Army, Ohio State, USC] have won in consecutive years.  Service academies won five of the first 25 Heisman awards, including Army’s Doc Blanchard, who became the first junior to win the trophy in 1945.  Princeton’s Dick Kazmaier won in 1951, the last Heisman to be awarded to an Ivy Leaguer.  Ernie Davis became the first African-American winner in 1961—an honor that should have gone to Jim Brown, who lost to Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung in 1956.  Hornung remains the only player to win from a losing team [2-8].

Two high schools have produced multiple Heisman recipients.  Woodrow Wilson High in Dallas is the alma mater of Davey O’Brien [1938] and Tim Brown [1987], while John Huarte [1964] and Matt Leinart [2004] attended Mater Dei in Santa Ana, California.  In 1997, Charles Woodson [Daily Dose, 2/10/16] became the first and only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman, while Florida’s Steve Spurrier [1966] became the first Heisman winner to coach a winner—Danny Weurffel, 30 years later.  Oregon State’s Terry Baker became the first player from the west coast to win college football’s most prestigious award in 1962.  That spring, he led the Beavers to the Final Four, becoming the only Heisman winner to do so.


Eight Heisman winners are also members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while four winners have also been named Super Bowl MVP.  Ohio State and Notre Dame have produced seven Heisman recipients.  USC has also had seven winners, but not all of them have held onto their trophy.  In 2005, Reggie Bush forfeited his award after an investigation showed he broke NCAA rules by accepting gifts from would-be agents, while O.J. Simpson’s trophy was sold at auction for $ 255,500 to help satisfy the $ 33.5 million judgement against him in the civil case that found him liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman in 1994.  Simpson collected 2,853 points in 1968 Heisman voting, the highest total ever recorded.  This closest race came in 2009, when Alabama’s Mark Ingram edged Toby Gerhart of Stanford by 28 points.

The 82nd Heisman Trophy will be awarded tomorrow evening at the Best Buy Theatre in New York City.