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December 9, 2015

09 Dec 1935: first Heisman Trophy awarded

On this day in 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club named Jay Berwanger, a senior at the University of Chicago, the “most valuable football player in the East.” The honor was soon named for John Heisman, the Club’s director, who died the following year.

It now officially recognizes the “most outstanding player” in college football, who “best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”

The Heisman Memorial Award Trophy. (Associated Press)

Some basics of the award’s history:

  • the trophy, which weighs 25 pounds, is modeled after Ed Smith of New York University – a school that no longer has a football team
  • Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White was the runner-up in 1937
  • the first African-American winner was Ernie Davis (Syracuse, 1961)
  • four schools have won the honor in consecutive years: Yale, Army, Ohio State, USC
  • Archie Griffin (Ohio State) is the only player to win it twice (1974 & 1975)
    • his story was the focus of the 2008 film The Express
  • most of the winners have been seniors
    • first junior: Doc Blanchard (Army, 1945)
    • first sophomore: Tim Tebow (Florida, 2007)
    • first freshman: Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M, 2012)
      • his record for youth was broken in 2013 by Jameis Winston (Florida State)
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