The Heisman Award Trophy

As we begin a new season of college football we constantly hear the game announcers talk about who is the frontrunner for college football’s biggest award, the Heisman Trophy. Handed down annually to college football’s most prolific player for the year as voted on by a panel of 941 media members and past winners, the Heisman Award has a glorious past. How did the Heisman Award get its start? Here are a few facts about the Heisman Award.

Heisman History

The Heisman Award got its start in 1935 by the members of Manhattan, New York’s Downtown Athletic Club. The club took its love for sports and decided to appoint a committee to set up an award to be given to college football’s player of the year. The first award was then handed out in 1935 to
Jay Berwanger from Chicago.

The idea for the trophy design was voted on by the membership and modeled after Ed Smith who was a leading football player for New York University. The finished trophy weighs 25 pounds and made of bronze.

It should be noted that the original name for the Heisman Trophy was actually called the DAC award, named after the Downtown Athletic Club. It was a year later in 1936 that one of the members, John Heisman passed away and the award was renamed the Heisman Award. The Heisman Trophy was given annually at the Downtown Athletic Club’s facility up until 2002. At the time, the club was located near the World Trade Center which was toppled by terrorists on Sept 11, 2001. The club experienced financial difficulties due in part to 9/11 and was forced to shut its doors. The Heisman is now presented by the Yale Club in the Nokia Theater.

Ballot Process

The ballot process for the Heisman Award involves splitting the U.S. into 6 separate regions. Each region has a selected representative whose job is to appoint 145 media members as additional voters. Past Heisman winners are also eligible to vote. The ballots are based on a 3-2-1 system in which each voter selects their top three players. First place votes are given 3 points for a first place vote, two for a second and 1 for a third. The points are then totaled up and the top vote getter is the winner. It’s interesting to note that there has never been a tie in Heisman history.

Heisman Winners

Football players from all NCAA divisions are eligible to win the Heisman Award, but no winner has ever been selected from outside division 1A. The award is usually handed out to a running back or quarterback. In fact, only 7 players from a different position than RB or QB have ever won the award. Also important to note is the fact that no freshman or sophomore has ever won the Heisman. Only a handful of juniors have won. Other notable distinctions include:

The only defensive player to win the Heisman was Charles Woodson. He was a defensive back for the University of Michigan in 1997.

Only one player has ever won the award two years in a row. Archie Griffin, a running back from Ohio State University holds that distinction, doing so in 1974 and 1975.

The most recent Heisman Trophy winner was Reggie Bush from the University of Southern California.

Past Heisman Winners

The winner of the Heisman Award is generally recognized as the best overall player to go into the NFL the following season. They usually are the number one overall pick in the draft. Of course, many of these players have lived up to their billing and became great NFL players. Players such as:

Roger Staubach
Earl Campbell
Tony Dorsett
Marcus Allen
Barry Sanders (the last Heisman winner to be voted into the NFL Hall of Fame)

Unfortunately though, many have gone on to lead troubled careers, and/or troubled lives.

Jay Berwanger, the first Heisman winner, was drafted by Philadelphia and refused to play for them. He never played a down in the NFL.

Archie Griffin, although the only two-time winner, went on to a very unproductive career with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Arguably the most famous of all past Heisman Award winners is OJ Simpson. Even though he has an outstanding career at USC, and later became the NFL’s first 2,000 yard rusher, he will forever remembered for his car chase through Los Angeles and trial for the murder of his former wife.

So now that a new season of college football is upon us we can gather with our friends and discuss who this years winner of the Heisman Award should be. No matter who it is, they will be walking in the footsteps of a very storied past.

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