The Heisman: Great American Stories of the Men Who Won


Close your eyes and picture the
Heisman Trophy. The form is easy to conjure, a graceful, fluid pose that is football past and football present in one dignified figure ...
The story of the Heisman Trophy is an american epic.
— from the Preface

No sport in America can match the pageantry, raw emotion, and thrilling tradition of college ...

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The Heisman

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Close your eyes and picture the
Heisman Trophy. The form is easy to conjure, a graceful, fluid pose that is football past and football present in one dignified figure ...
The story of the Heisman Trophy is an american epic.
— from the Preface

No sport in America can match the pageantry, raw emotion, and thrilling tradition of college football. It is a world in which a twenty-year-old kid can become a national sensation overnight, in which coaches are deified and rivalries burn white-hot.

And in this world, there is no individual award so revered as the Heisman Trophy. Every yearsince 1935, one player has run, thrown, or kicked his way into the pantheon of American sport. From Nile "The Cornbelt Comet" Kinnick in the '30s, West Point's legendary backfield of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis in the '40s, and Paul Hornung in the '50s to Ernie Davis, the Jackie Robinson of college football, miracle worker Doug Flutie, and modern-day Sunday warrior Eddie George, the history of the Heisman gives us insight into the heart of America through the lives of the heroes that entranced an entire nation for one brilliant season. Extraordinary in ways that transcend athletic ability, Heisman winners have gone on to become war heroes, Fortune 500 CEOs, and high-level politicians.

As John Heisman himself once said, the Heisman Trophy "is meant to exemplify the grandeur of a thousand men." Here within these pages are intimate portraits of some of the winners who also exemplify the grit and glory of America's beloved game and of the coaching giants such as Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, and Red Blaik, who inspired the winners to achieve.Told in the evocative words of Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist Bill Pennington, their heart-stopping experiences on the field and off will have Americans enthralled until the final page is turned.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060554729
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/6/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 890,672
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Pennington is a reporter for the New York Times and has been writing about sports fortwenty-five years. A former syndicated sports columnist, Pennington is a ten-time finalist andfive-time winner of the Associated Press SportsEditors' national writing contest. He lives with his wife, Joyce, and three children in Warwick, New York.

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Table of Contents

1 "Is it not meant to exemplify the grandeur of a thousand men?" 1
2 "The football part is incidental" 19
3 Under a hero's light 37
4 More than a game 53
5 The melting pot dynasty : Rockne's Legacy and Leahy's Lads 81
6 The last ivy leaguer 109
7 Everybody's golden boy 117
8 If there was a job worth doing : it was worth doing it right 131
9 Fundamental principles 141
10 "The perfect kid" 159
11 America's quarterback 175
12 "He hasn't been asked to join : and he hasn't asked to join" 195
13 "It's all in your hands" 215
14 "The Heisman is a privilege, not a free pass" 231
15 "Everyone is here for their moment" 245
16 Paying forward 257
17 "I wouldn't have asked you to do something if I didn't know you could do it" 269
18 "I feel bigger" 281
19 "We won this together" 295
20 "I didn't know everything like I thought I knew everything" 305
21 "Kindred spirits" 315
Complete list of Heisman trophy winners 333
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First Chapter

The Heisman
Great American Stories of the Men Who Won

Chapter One

"Is It Not Meant to Exemplify the
Grandeur of a Thousand Men?"

The Downtown Athletic Club
and John W. Heisman

In 1926 America, unemployment was virtually nonexistent. The standard of living was at an all-time high. Post–World War I America had the most powerful economy on earth, presaging the still young country's expansion as a world power. In a changing century, America charged forward with rootless abandon. The political and financial leadership of America in 1926 had been raised in a very different country, a primitive place of wide, uncharted open plains. The newspapers of their childhoods had been filled with events like the massacre of General George Armstrong Custer, a seminal episode in American history commemorating its fiftieth anniversary in 1926. But in the industrial society of the day, Custer's demise was treated with a noteworthy detachment, as if it occurred during the American Revolution.

This was an America sprinting so fast into a future of unrestrained hopes and dreams, it placed events like horseback skirmishes in western plains into a bygone era. Time was measured not in the years passed but in the stunning introduction of one technological advance after another: electricity, the automobile, air flight, the motion picture, and the theory of relativity.

Not surprisingly, this exploding America was a sprawling cultural paradox. After years of rallies and national debate, the eighteenth amendment, banning alcohol, had been passed in 1920. Six years later, it was widely ignored. In 1926, the most praised, and notorious, movie was Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin, a communist manifesto. But the most noteworthy literary contribution of the year was F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, an examination of an altogether different society.

In 1926, the country mourned the death of silent film star Rudolph Valentino. In the same year, a Scottish inventor named M. John Baird demonstrated a new machine capable of the wireless transmission of moving pictures. People had taken to calling the device a Baird, but the inventor preferred his own term, the television.

Historically, America of the 1920s is known for its high times of excess: flapper girls, riotous speakeasies, and frivolous twenty-four-hour dance marathons. But it was also a decade of mushrooming interest in athletics. In September 1926, more than 130,000 fans enveloped a Philadelphia boxing ring to see Gene Tunney pummel Jack Dempsey. It was the era of Knute Rockne's "Four Horsemen" in college football, Bobby Jones's golf grand slam, and baseball's rebirth as powered by Babe Ruth.

But what truly intrigued sociologists was an attendant and entirely new American phenomenon in athletics: the pursuit of exercise through sports and games by adult Americans. In a shifting, unsettled society, these Americans gathered in clusters linked by geography, ethnicity, or social status. Suddenly, athletic clubs, sponsored by towns, civic organizations, and churches, were the rage. While much of America was still a land of farmers and agricultural interests, where the work of life was exercise enough, more Americans than ever lived in crowded urban environments.

In these teeming municipalities, leaders began creating parklands, and these civic playgrounds abounded with not only children but, increasingly, adults. More open space was bought up by organized private clubs, which raised money from members to purchase domains dedicated to the unfettered quest of sport -- golf, tennis, swimming, bowling, badminton, and other manner of exercise.

These clubs were, in fact, strategic socioeconomic centers, another way to separate and define a man and his position in society.

In 1926, James Kennard and Philip Slinguff, two entrepreneurs who years earlier had helped create another version of the popular men's club -- known then as a gentlemen's club -- turned their attention to establishing the most majestic men's athletic club ever devised. What intrigued Kennard and Slinguff was that there was no all-purpose place close to Wall Street for successful businessmen to gather for exercise, an activity that frequently led to drinks, dinner, and often a night's stay for the out-of-town industrial magnates.

Kennard and Slinguff decided to form a club that they promised would be "no more than five minutes' walk from Broadway and Wall Street," in the heart of the financial center of post–World War I America, the most commanding, authoritative neighborhood in the world.

They planned a thirty-five-story skyscraper to house their club and began selling lifetime memberships to what they called the Downtown Athletic Club (DAC), memberships that were transferable so that they could be traded like stock.

When the membershiproll reached 900, the club confidently decided to take on and finance $3 million in debt to complete building its thirty-fivestory athletic and social palace. And what a palace it was to be. The club's china cost $56,000, and a French chef was hired at a lavish salary of $700 a month -- at a time when the average annual income was $1,300 a year.

On March 12, 1929, the construction crew broke ground on the DAC building, twenty-five days after the U.S. Federal Reserve, unsettled by months of turbulent ups and downs in the stock market, announced that it favored a permanent curb to stock speculation.

By September 3, the New York Stock Exchange had reached an alltime high, its Dow Jones Index at 381.17, and a month later, a towering new brick building was rising on West Street. On October 24, 1929, the Downtown Athletic Club building was a giant scaffold, through which, depending on your vantage point, you could see Brooklyn or New Jersey. And in its shadow were the front steps of the New York Stock Exchange where investors awaited the day's trading, shaken by a precipitous drop in stock values the previous day.

As the day began, prices continued to drop, and then, between 11:15 A.M. and 12:15 P.M., the trading of shares overcame the floor in a devastating frenzy. As investors dumped their shares, the domino effect was felt nationwide. The Chicago commodities exchange exploded with a near panic of trading ...

The Heisman
Great American Stories of the Men Who Won
. Copyright © by Bill Pennington. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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