Friday, October 24, 2008

Anniversary: John Heisman

On this day in 1869, John Heisman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Heisman was a celebrated football player and coach. His achievements include a 222-0 victory over Cumberland College as the coach at Georgia Tech. Heisman pioneered line shifts, helped develop the hiked ball and advocated legalization of the forward pass.

Of course Heisman is best known as the namesake of the Heisman Trophy, given annually to college football's most outstanding player. In 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan established an award for the best college football player east of the Mississippi. When Heisman, the club's former athletics director, died in 1936 the award was renamed the Heisman Memorial Trophy. The scope of the award was later enlarged to include the entire country. The name Heisman has become synonymous with athletic greatness. The trophy, it should be noted, is not modeled on Heisman but on 1930's New York University player Ed Smith.

The front runner for this year's Heisman Trophy is the phenomenally named Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.