The Heisman Trophy is an award given to the best player in American college football each year. The trophy was created in 1935 by the Downtown Athletic Club, formerly of New York City, to recognize the best college player east of the Mississippi River. After the club’s athletic director, John Heisman, died in 1936, the club named the trophy in his honor, and extended the award to cover college player nationwide.
The Heisman is a recognizable trophy because it isn’t your standard cup. Rather it is a sculpture of a player running with the ball, with one arm outstretched, fending away the tackle of an imaginary oncoming player. The fend is often referred to as a stiff-arm, hence the name of the novel that the Heisman features in, Stiff Arm Steal.
Although the trophy is named after John Heisman, the sculpture isn’t actually Heisman at all. The model for the trophy was a New York University football player named Ed Smith, and was created by artist Frank Eliscu. Although Smith modeled for the sculpture, he didn’t know that the sculpture went on to become the Heisman Trophy until almost fifty years later. Smith was awarded his own Heisman trophy by the Downtown Athletic Club in 1985.
These days the trophy is awarded by the Heisman Trophy Trust, based in New York City. The Downtown Athletic Club is no more. It was run out of a building the club had built and was completed in 1930, in downtown Manhattan, less than a half mile from the World Trade Center. The club ran into financial trouble in the 1990s, and after the 9/11 attacks was within the area cordoned off from the public for an extended time to allow for the clean up. The club building wasn’t damaged, but the enforced closure resulted in the bankruptcy of the club. The building now houses condos, because that’s what all old buildings seem to do. The award has been overseen by the Heisman Trophy Trust since 2006.
Only one player has won the award twice—Archie Griffin of Ohio State University, in 1974 and 1975.
Although I’m sure a lot of my readers would wonder why anyone would care about such a thing, consider this: Not many Heisman Trophies have been sold on the open market, but those that have generally fetch a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and as much as four hundred thousand.
Want one now?