Iowa Native Could Become 4th Iowan to Win the Heisman This Weekend
The Heisman Trophy has been awarded to college football's best player 86 times over the years. In all that time, only three native Iowans have claimed the trophy, including the man who was the very first winner. This weekend, a quarterback who played high school football in Iowa hopes to become the fourth.
In 1935, the DAC (Downtown Athletic Club) Trophy was given to the best college football player "east of the Mississippi River." The man who won it was born in Dubuque, Iowa 21 years earlier.
Jay Berwanger wasn't just a great football player in high school in Dubuque, but also a wrestling and track star. Five Big Ten schools (Chicago, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Purdue) wanted the all-state halfback who played nearly every position to continue his career at their school.
Surprisingly, Berwanger decided on the University of Chicago which gave him a basic tuition scholarship that amounted to only $300 per year. It may be the best investment ever by a college football program.
According to Heisman.com, Berwanger "called plays, ran, passed, punted, blocked, tackled, kicked off, kicked extra points, and returned punts and kickoffs."
In 1935, Berwanger ran for 577 yards, threw for 405, returned kickoffs for 359 yards, scored six touchdowns, and also made five PAT kicks. In addition to winning the DAC Trophy, he was named the Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten.
Not only was Berwanger the first winner of what would become the Heisman Trophy, but he is also the only winner of the trophy to ever be tackled by a future President of the United States (Gerald Ford, who played for Michigan, in 1934).
The National Football League draft was held for the first time in 1936 and Berwanger was the first player taken. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles who were unable to come to a deal with him and traded his rights to the Chicago Bears. When George Halas refused to pay him the $25,000 he requested for a two-year deal, Berwanger decided the NFL wasn't for him. He never played a down in the league, instead taking a job selling foam rubber. It wasn't a mistake as Berwanger became a very successful businessman. There's more on Berwanger in the video below.
Berwanger became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954. He passed away in 2002.
In 1936, the DAC Trophy was renamed the Heisman Memorial Trophy. It was named for John W. Heisman, considered an innovator of the game, who had passed away earlier that fall. Heisman was the athletic director of the Downtown Athletic Club.
In 1939, another Iowa native won the Heisman. The only Iowa Hawkeye player to ever claim the trophy. Nile Kinnick.
Kinnick, nicknamed the Cornbelt Comet, was born in Adel, Iowa, and starred at Adel High before his family moved to Omaha after his junior year.
After high school graduation, Kinnick tried out at the University of Minnesota. When that didn't go well, he became a Hawkeye. Minnesota's loss was definitely Iowa's gain.
During the 1939 season, Heisman.com says Kinnick played "an average of 57 minutes per game. He played 402 consecutive minutes against Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue, Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Northwestern before a separated shoulder in the season-finale against the Wildcats forced him to the sideline."
Kinnick was everything to the 6-1-1 Iowa team of 1939 known as "The Ironmen". He passed for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 375 more. He was also 11-of-17 on dropkick conversion attempts. Kinnick played a part in 107 of the 130 points Iowa scored during the season. He was also responsible for eight interceptions during the season.
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy, Kinnick was the Big Ten MVP and won the Walter Camp and Maxwell awards. He gave perhaps the most memorable Heisman Trophy awards speech in history (below). A portion of the speech is played at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City prior to every Iowa home game.
Nile Kinnick was killed in action while serving as a Navy pilot in June of 1943. He became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
A statue of Nile Kinnick stands in the plaza on the south end of the stadium that bears his name.
Joe Burrow was born in Ames, Iowa in 1996. His father, Jim, was an assistant coach at Iowa State at the time.
Unlike Berwanger and Kinnick, Burrow didn't play high school football in Iowa. While playing in Plains, Ohio he led his high school team to the school's first seven playoff wins ever. His leadership would continue to be fruitful at Louisiana State (LSU).
Burrow started his collegiate career at Ohio State before transferring to LSU. In 2019, his stats were otherworldly: 4,715 passing yards and 48 touchdown passes. He completed 77.9 percent of his passes, a record for a Heisman winner. Burrow also rushed for 289 yards and three touchdowns.
Burrow was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. He led the Bengals to the Super Bowl last winter.
This Saturday night, another native Iowan hopes to win the Heisman Trophy.
Max Duggan was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and played high school football at Council Bluffs Lewis Central. He was named the Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year in 2018 when he threw for 2,100 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 1,200 more.
During his freshman year at Texas Christian (TCU), he quickly won the starting job. This year, his senior season, Duggan has led the Horned Frogs to the College Football Playoff. He's thrown for 3,321 yards and 30 touchdowns while throwing only four interceptions. Duggan has rushed for 404 yards and six touchdowns.
*Below is a photo of Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and Duggan after last month's TCU victory in Ames.
Anyone who's watched Duggan during his TCU career knows he's a winner, but can he win the Heisman Trophy? He's one of four finalists for the award. They're all quarterbacks. The other finalists are USC's Caleb Williams, C.J. Stroud of Ohio State, and Stetson Bennett of Georgia.
The 2022 Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN. You have to consider Duggan a longshot to win it but, then again, how many people thought he'd lead TCU to the College Football Playoff?
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