For the 79th time since its inception in 1935, the Heisman Memorial Trophy will be awarded to an individual designated as the outstanding college football player in the United States. The Heisman Trophy is a national symbol of collegiate football experience and competitiveness. At the same time, it has become the single most celebrated and sought-after award in American collegiate athletics.
Named in memory of a man whose inventiveness and contribution to football strategy is without compare, the Heisman Trophy has become more than an award of sculptured statuary. Indeed, it is an end in itself for college football players to become the next member of the elite fraternity of Heisman Trophy winners.
Known initially as the DAC Trophy, it was first presented to Jay Berwanger, the legendary "one man gang" from the University of Chicago on December 9, 1935, the bronze statue award depicts a football player side-stepping and straight-arming a tackler. The idea of an award to the most outstanding college football player was originally conceived by members of the Downtown Athletic Club, formerly located in the southern end of Manhattan. Renowned for its devotion to sports, members of the Downtown Athletic Club appointed a Club Trophy Committee charged with conducting the first award presentation at the conclusion of the 1935 football season.
First, the trophy itself - what should be its style, size and design? The traditional cup or bowl seemed too commonplace, lacked distinction and was in no way emblematic of the athletic talent to be honored and immortalized. The Club Trophy Committee decided, after deliberation, that the trophy should be the replica in bronze of a muscular footballer driving for yardage.
To create this trophy, a well-known sculptor and National Academy Prize Winner, Frank Eliscu, was engaged. He set to work at once selecting Ed Smith, a leading player on the 1934 New York University football team, as his model. In due course, Eliscu prepared a rough clay model. It was approved by the DAC Committee and sent uptown to Jim Crowley (one of the legendary Four Horseman of Notre Dame), then Head Football Coach at Fordham, for his inspection. He showed the replica to his players who took various positions on the field to illustrate and verify the side step, the forward drive and the strong arm thrust of the right arm. Sculptor Eliscu closely observed these action sequences and modified his clay prototype to correspond. The result was a truly lifelike simulation of player action. It was then converted into a plaster cast, a step preliminary to ultimate production in bronze.
The final inspection of the cast was made after a dinner at the McAlpin Hotel on November 16, 1935, attended by Coach Elmer Layden and the entire Notre Dame football team (they had just played a memorable 6-6 tie with Army before 78,114 fans). The members of the Fighting Irish squad were impressed by the animation and fidelity of Eliscu's model - especially Wally Fromhart, Don Elser and Wayne Millner. The 1935 Notre Dame team thus put its seal of approval on this new trophy. Now it was ready for its final stage, bronze casting, after being refined by a diversity of intercollegiate contributions; the live model from New York University, the Fordham team which brought reality to the prototype, the men from Notre Dame who endorsed it, and two of the "Four Horseman" who gave it their personal blessing. The trophy was, indeed, an almost classic sculpture, an artistic as well as athletic triumph.
The finished product, cast in statuary bronze, faithfully depicts a skilled and sinewed football player, sidestepping, and straight arming his way downfield to a mythical touchdown! Cast in a highly artistic method known as the lost wax process of bronze medal molding, the statue weighs 45 pounds, is 14 inches long, 13½ inches in height and 6½ inches in width. The first award of the DAC Trophy was made on December 9, 1935 to Jay Berwanger, a triple threat cyclone in Chicago's backfield. In 23 games (1933-1935) Berwanger gained more than a mile from scrimmage.
Following John W. Heisman's death in 1936, the DAC Trophy was renamed the Heisman Memorial Trophy as a fitting tribute to the memory of the distinguished American athlete and inventive football genius. In 1968, the Heisman Trophy Committee voted to award two trophies each year - one is presented to the college football player selected for excellence, while a second trophy is awarded to the school represented by the winner.
The college player selected for the award is flown to New York City along with school officials for the formal presentation ceremonies and special honors. The 79th Annual Heisman Trophy Dinner will take place Monday, December 16, 2013.
Ticket information will be posted in the Fall.