In previous articles I’ve talked about the Maxwell Award, the Fred Biletnikoff Award and the Doak Walker Award. But in college football there is one trophy more important than them all, the Hesiman Trophy. The Heisman Trophy is so prestige that every person that has won the Heisman Trophy will be introduced as “Heisman Trophy winner” the rest of their life. But who was the Heisman Trophy named after?
John Heisman was born in Ohio but grew up in Pennsylvania. John Heisman played high school football in Ohio and attended college at Brown University. Heisman played at Brown University from 1887 to 1889 before transferring to University of Pennsylvania. He would finish out his college career there.
The Heisman Trophy is awarded to the best player in college football but John Heisman’s legacy is actually as a coach and not so much as a player. John Heisman’s coaching career began at Oberlin College in 1982. From there John Heisman coached at Akron in 1893, returned to Oberlin College in 1984, then coached at Auburn from 1895 to 1899, Clemson from 1900 – 1903, Georgia Tech from 1904 – 1919, Pennsylvania 1920 – 1922, Washington & Jefferson in 1923 and Rice from 1924 – 1927.
John Heisman is most known for his 16 seasons as the Georgia Tech head coach. During John Heisman’s 16 seasons as head coach Georgia Tech went undefeated three times and at one point they had a 32 game undefeated streak. John Heisman was also the coach during the most lopsided college football game in history. After Cumberland College supposedly ran up the score on Georgia Tech’s baseball team 22 – 0, Heisman decided their football team would run up the score against Cumberland College’s football team. Georgia Tech would go on to defeat Cumberland College 222 – 0.
John Heisman’s record at Georgia Tech was 102 – 29 – 6. John Heisman would go on to Pennsylvania where he had a winning record ever year but never less than two losses. At Rice he would have a .500 record his first three seasons before suffering the first losing season of his 36 year career in 1927. John Heisman would retire after that season and finished his career with an overall record of 185 – 68 – 18.
John Heisman was once the atheltics director for the Downtown Athletic Club, which awarded a trophy to the best player east of the Mississippi each season. After John Heisman’s death the Downtown Athletic Club renamed the trophy the Heisman Trophy and was then awarded to the most outstanding player in college football each season.
The first Heisman Trophy was awarded to Chicago’s Jay Berwanger. Sixteen times the Heisman Trophy winner has gone on to be the first pick in the NFL draft although Carson Palmer is the only one in the past twenty years. Doak Walker, Paul Hornung, Roger Staubach, O. J. Simpson, Tony Dorsett, Earl Campbell, Marcus Allen and Barry Sanders are the only Heisman Trophy winners that went on to be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Reggie Bush’s win in 2005 and Troy Smith’s win in 2006 tied USC and Ohio State with Notre Dame for the most Heisman Trophy winners. The widest margin of victory came in 1968 when O. J. Simpson defeated Leroy Keyes by 1750 points in the voting. The narrowest margin came in 1985 when Bo Jackson overcame Chuck Long by just 45 points in the voting. In 2007 Florida quarterback Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.